Thursday, November 30, 2006

Calderon siezes power in Mexico

Elections in Ecuador

Analysis prepared by COHA Director Dr. Larry Birns

Council on Hemispheric Affairs November 27, 2006

The astonishing comeback of Rafael Correa from what
appeared to be a definitive first round defeat marks
one of the most extraordinary reversals of the
political fate of a South American leader within
memory. Correa's victory also represents a significant
triumph for the average Ecuadorean who refused to be
beguiled by Alvaro Noboa's well-fueled, so-called
populist, but splash-dash campaign. In a poor country
like Ecuador, Noboa's unparalleled expenditure of money
- some of it handed out personally by him - was a
hardly-concealed effort to buy an election. Meanwhile,
Correa ran an issue-oriented campaign centered on
alleviating the dead-end plight of the nation's poor.

As important as any other aspect of the presidential
race was that its outcome represented a stinging defeat
for Washington's Latin American policy, which already
had hit rock bottom throughout the Bush presidency. Key
U.S. policies like free trade, privatization and market
integration, anti-drug trafficking, increased regional
military presence, and the pursuit of isolating Cuba
and Venezuela, were being challenged and dismissed as
being irrelevant.

The White House has touted recent elections in Mexico
and Peru as a sharp defeat for the "Pink Tide" movement
of left-leaning governments in the Americas (Brazil,
Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina and, to an
extent, Chile). But the more recent victories of
leftist candidates Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua (after a
blatant intervention scheme led by U.S. Ambassador in
Managua Paul Trivelli), and now Rafael Correa in
Ecuador, represent a humiliating rebuke for
Washington's chief goals.

Another major winner in yesterday's vote was
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Although Chavez was somewhat
restrained in getting involved in the Ecuadorian race,
the same was certainly not true about Correa, who made
repeated complimentary references to the Venezuelan
president throughout his campaign.

In Mexico and Peru, Chavez had played the role of
poison pill, fatal in his ability to inadvertently
strike dead his electoral allies in other countries
through guilt by association. In Ecuador, to the
contrary, he proved to be an imposing plus factor in
Correa's victory, a fact that cannot make the State
Department's Nicholas Burns, a key administration
functioning when it comes to Chavez bashing, other than
completely frustrated.

The Correa victory is much more meaningful because his
campaign was pegged in favor of an autonomous path of
development, including a more muscular Latin American
definition of its sovereignty than was the case with
Daniel Ortega's win in Nicaragua. Ortega's victory was
much more muddied by his two-tier policy of presenting
himself as both a friend of business, the Church, and
Washington's free trade policies, while at other times
projecting himself as a prospective candidate of Pink
Tide dissent, and that his victory should be seen as a
challenge to U.S. hegemony.

But there was nothing ambiguous about Correa's victory,
which must be seen as yet another piece of evidence
that the U.S. continues to pay a heavy price for the
near fatal damage done to its good name throughout the
hemisphere by Otto Reich and Roger Noriega, during
their archly controversial reigns as State Department's
assistant Secretaries for Western Hemispheric affairs.
The arrogance that the two displayed to Latin America's
opposition to the Iraq war and an insistence that their
brand of raw ideological extremism be disseminated
throughout the continent alienated many of Washington's
closest allies.

During his tenure, Secretary of State Powell yielded to
hard core White House partisans in reluctantly
accepting Reich and Noriega to serve under him. The
fact that they at all times had an independent and
politicized access to the top tiers of the
administration through their Miami connections, allowed
them to advance a rightwing agenda outside of the State
Department's formal chain of command. This process
continued with Secretary Rice's ascension to the State
Department, but with even more gusto, since her
congruency with the spirit of Reich's and Noriega's
view of the region, if not their antagonistic style,
was not in doubt. Particularly, policy regarding
Venezuela and Cuba has continued almost unmodified
under Thomas Shannon, who is the first career foreign
service officer in the Bush administration to head up
the Western Hemispheric Bureau. Shannon, unfortunately,
mainly followed the substance if not the style featured
in the Bush administration's first term.

As an extension of the Bush administration's Opera
Bouffe approach to Cuban policy, one can only point to
the shameless antics of head of the U.S. Interest
Section in Havana, Michael Parmly, whose talents seem
to lie in the direction of low theater and whose
juvenile pranks emanating from his base in the Cuban
capital cannot possibly be confused with professional
diplomacy. In addition, the conduct of U.S. Ambassador
to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli, who repeatedly has
intervened in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, acting
as the major domo in efforts to unify the conservative
opposition to the eventually victorious, Daniel Ortega,
reflected Washington's traditional scorn for Latin
America's self-dignity.

The importance of the Correa triumph can be found both
within and outside of Ecuador and deserves being dealt
with in each arena. Opposing Washington's free trade
model as well as not renewing the lease of the Manta
air base were among his specific pledges. By not
fulfilling his platform, he will risk being ousted by
the indigenous population as was the case with the
country's last democratically-elected president, Lucio

What the Correa victory will mean for the future of
Latin America's ties to Washington and what role the
Pink Tide movement will have for the hemisphere is of
the utmost importance. Initially, the Correa victory
will provide renewed momentum to the moderate leftist,
New Deal-style leadership, which characterizes most of
South America. After setbacks in Colombia, Mexico and
Peru, the Pink Tide grouping seemed to have lost its
spirit, not counting the more radical initiatives being
put forth by Venezuela and Bolivia. Because of
Washington's preoccupation with Iraq and the mid-term
elections, Latin American countries were able to
pluralize their relationship with other parts of the
world and think globally, not just hemispherically. As
a result, we may be witnessing a decline in the
centrality of a hemispheric orientation as represented
by the OAS and an increase in importance of outward
looking associations like the Ibero-America Summit and
the budding Brazil-South Africa-India and China ties.
Because of timing and the immense achievement of
overcoming his enormous first round deficit, Correa's
electoral victory may be one of the most important
hemispheric political events witnessed in the past
several years.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Take action to oppose Robert Gates

The prior two posts are about Robert Gates and Nicaragua.
here is an appeal.

Deadline for signatures: December 3, 2006.

Sign a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Robert Gates!
Tell Senators to Oppose Gates for Secretary of Defense!

To sign on to this letter as a group or as an individual, send your name, organization, city, and state to The letter with all signatures will be sent to Senator John Warner, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, ranking Democratic member, and the other members of the Committee on December 4, 2006.

Gates is an old Cold Warrior involved in most of the illegal and immoral US government actions in the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

He should not be Secretary of Defense because of his:
1. Involvement in the CIA mining of the Nicaraguan port of Corinto and execution of Contra war against Nicaragua ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice at The Hague;
2. Lying to the Senate about knowledge of the illegal activities known as the Iran/Contra scandal in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and the Boland Amendment;
3. Providing chemical weapon components to Iraq during Iran/Iraq war; and
4. Tailoring intelligence on the Soviet Union, according to former Secretary of State George Shultz.

To learn more about the record of Robert Gates, read the November 25, 2006, article in the Los Angeles Times by Julian Barnes,0,5508834.story that cites a memo in which Gates “advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in 1984 in order to ‘bring down’” the government. This memo can be read on the web page of the National Security Archive at Scroll down to Document 3.

Also, read the November 9th interview with former CIA agent Melvin Goodman and Journalist Robert Parry on the radio/TV program “Democracy Now!” Goodman states that “There was a record of Bob Gates creating intelligence out of whole cloth” including on Central America.

Melvin Goodman also wrote an opinion piece which appeared in the Baltimore Sun on November 10 in which he brings out Gates’ politicization of intelligence, especially on the Soviet Union. To read the article go to:,0,3393156.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines

Read Scott Shane’s articles on Gates’ difficulties in his previous confirmation hearings in the New York Times (you will have to register first, but it is free) of November 10 at and November 18th at

An excerpt from the autobiography of Lawrence Walsh, independent counsel in the Iran/Contra investigation from 1986 to 1993, is posted on the web page of Counterpunch. Go here to read it: Walsh wrote, "We did not believe that he could have forgotten a warning of North's diversion of the arms sale proceeds to the Contras. The mingling of two covert activities that were of intense personal interest to the president was not something the second-highest officer in the CIA would forget."

Deadline for signatures: December 3, 2006. Please post widely.

Here follows the letter to the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee:

December 4, 2006

Armed Services Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC

Dear Senator_________________:

As individuals and organizations concerned with human rights, we are writing to urge you to reject President George W. Bush’s nomination of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Mr. Gates has been involved in violations of U.S. and international law that should make him ineligible to hold this high office, including (but not limited to):

1. Involvement in the CIA mining of the Nicaraguan port of Corinto and execution of Contra war against Nicaragua ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice at The Hague;
2. Lying to the Senate about knowledge of the illegal activities known as the Iran/Contra scandal in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and the Boland Amendment;
3. Providing chemical weapon components to Iraq during Iran/Iraq war; and
4. Tailoring intelligence on the Soviet Union, according to former Secretary of State George Shultz.

Mr. Gates was the second-in-command and right-hand of CIA Director Bill Casey in the 1980s when the CIA mined Nicaragua’s harbors and organized, trained and supplied the contras trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. According to former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman, who was interviewed on the radio/TV program “Democracy Now!” on November 9, “There was a record of Bob Gates creating intelligence out of whole cloth and urging Bill Casey to take even more provocative measures than the CIA and the Reagan administration was proposing toward Central America, particularly toward Nicaragua.” Goodman went on to say, “Remember, the CIA was involved in the mining of the harbor in Corinto, which was clearly an act of war. And Bill Casey never briefed this to the Senate Intelligence Committee. And, of course, Gates prepared all of Casey’s testimony at this time.”

Independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh in his autobiography wrote, "We told them [the Senators] that we did not think we had enough corroborating information to indict Robert Gates, but that his answers to these questions had been unconvincing. We did not believe that he could have forgotten a warning of North's diversion of the arms sale proceeds to the Contras. The mingling of two covert activities that were of intense personal interest to the president was not something the second-highest officer in the CIA would forget."

Evidence indicates that Mr. Gates was part of the Republican efforts to stall release of the US Embassy hostages held in Iran during the administration of President Jimmy Carter until after the November 1980 election in order to prevent the Carter administration from claiming a successful outcome. Goodman said that the Russian government reported in 1993 to Rep. Lee Hamilton, who was in charge of the investigation of the so-called “October surprise,” that “these contacts [by the Iranians] with the Republicans had occurred, the Soviets at that point had intelligence on it, and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in it.” The hostages were released on the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Even more serious are the accusations that Gates was involved in the sale of weapons to Iraq in the early 1980s including cluster bombs and precursor chemicals for weapons of mass destruction. Journalist Robert Parry, also speaking on “Democracy Now!” on Nov. 9, said that these were the chemicals “that Saddam Hussein allegedly used in his chemical weapons that were deployed against the Iranians and other targets in Iraq. So, Gates was allegedly involved in all those kinds of -- that’s the very secretive side of US foreign policy that Casey was overseeing, but Gates was … his man handling some of the details.”

We believe that Mr. Gates must be required during his nomination hearing to answer questions from Senators on all of these topics and we urge you not to accept incomplete answers or obfuscations. Upon the completion of the hearing, we urge you to recommend that Robert Gates’ nomination to be our nation’s next Secretary of Defense be rejected by the Senate.


Names of organizations and individuals

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iran/Contra Terrorists twenty years later

Iran-contra: 20 Years Later and What It Means
From The Nation
David Corn

It's the 20th anniversary of the Iran-contra scandal. Two decades ago, the public learned about the bizarre, Byzantine and (arguably) unconstitutional actions of high officials in the post-Watergate years. But many Americans did not absorb the key lesson: the Iran-contra vets were not to be trusted. Consequently, most of those officials went on to prosperous careers, with some even becoming part of the squad that has landed the United States in the current hellish mess in Iraq.

Before tying the then to the now, let's revisit the basic narrative. When Congress, by fair vote, decided in the 1980s that the United States should not assist the contras fighting the socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua, the Reagan White House concocted several imaginative ways to pull an end-run around democracy. This mainly entailed outsourcing the job to a small band of private sector covert operators and to foreign governments, which were privately requested or pressured by the Reaganites to support the secret contra support operation. The "Iran" side of the scandal came from President Ronald Reagan's covert efforts to sell weapons to Iran to obtain the release of American hostages held by terrorist groups supposedly under the control of Tehran--at a time when the White House was publicly declaring it would not negotiate with terrorists. The two clandestine projects merged when cash generated from the weapons transactions with Iran was diverted to the contra operation.

Conservatives for years--make that decades--have argued there was nothing really criminal about the Iran-contra affair and that it was merely a political dispute between the pro-contras Republicans in the White House and the Democrats controlling Congress. Yet at the time the architects of these schemes worried they were breaking laws and placing Reagan in jeopardy of being impeached. Look at how the National Security Archive, a nonprofit outfit that gathers national security records, summarizes a memo documenting a key White House meeting on the clandestine contras program:

At a pivotal meeting of the highest officials in the Reagan Administration [on June 25, 1984], the President and Vice President [George H.W. Bush] and their top aides discuss how to sustain the Contra war in the face of mounting Congressional opposition. The discussion focuses on asking third countries to fund and maintain the effort, circumventing Congressional power to curtail the CIA's paramilitary operations. In a remarkable passage, Secretary of State George P. Shultz warns the president that White House adviser James Baker has said that "if we go out and try to get money from third countries, it is an impeachable offense." But Vice President George Bush argues the contrary: "How can anyone object to the US encouraging third parties to provide help to the anti-Sandinistas…? The only problem that might come up is if the United States were to promise to give these third parties something in return so that some people could interpret this as some kind of exchange." Later, Bush participated in arranging a quid pro quo deal with Honduras in which the U.S. did provide substantial overt and covert aid to the Honduran military in return for Honduran support of the Contra war effort.

The Iran arms-for-hostage-deal was also illegal--or so Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger thought. At a December 7, 1985 White House meeting, Weinberger argued the Iran missile deal was wrong and criminal, according to his notes of the session. Weinberger pointed out to Reagan that selling missiles to Iran would violate a U.S. embargo on arms sales to Iran and that even the president of the United States could not break this law. Nor, Weinberger added, would it be legal to use Israel as a cutout, as was under consideration. Both Secretary of State George Shultz and White House chief of staff Donald Regan, who were each present, agreed that a secret weapons deal with Iran would be against the law. Reagan, though, insisted on proceeding, noting he could answer a charge of illegality but not the charge that he had "passed up a chance to free hostages." Weinberger then quipped, "Visiting hours are Thursdays"--meaning the deal could land someone in jail. After the meeting, Regan told Weinberger he would try to talk Reagan out of the deal. He failed to do so.

Soon both the clandestine contras program and the secret Iran deal were underway, with the relevant agencies--most notably, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department--providing back-up and National Security Council officers Robert McFarlane, John Poindexter and Oliver North overseeing operations. In supporting the contras project, the CIA worked with individuals it suspected of being involved in drug-dealing, according to a subsequent CIA inspector general's investigation.

The skullduggery began to unravel in the fall of 1986. On October 5, 1986, a C-123 aircraft ferrying supplies to the contras was shot down by the Sandinistas, and an American named Eugene Hasenfus was captured. He told the Nicaraguans that his flight was part of a CIA-approved operation. Days later, Reagan said of the Hasenfus operation, "There was no government connection with that at all." He was not telling the truth. Shortly after that, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams testified in Congress that the administration had arranged for no foreign donations--"not a dime"--to the contras--even though he had arranged for a $10 million contribution to the rebels from the Sultan of Brunei.

On November 3, 1986, a Lebanese weekly revealed that the previous May National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane had secretly flown to Tehran. McFarlane's covert mission had been part of the arms-for-hostages deal--which now stood exposed. On November 25, Attorney General Edwin Meese held a press conference and disclosed that funds from the arms sales to Iran had been diverted to the contras support program. (I happened to be watching that press conference with Abbie Hoffman, the former Yippie, who exclaimed, "I couldn't make this stuff up.")

A full-scale scandal was born. Investigations were convened. The Reagan presidency was hobbled. But impeachment never became an issue--in part because Democratic congressional investigators removed it from the table at the start of their inquiries. White House partisans threw up a defense of spin and obfuscation that turned the affair into a political muddle. (That is, mission accomplished.) Oliver North became a hero to conservatives. Bush the Elder, who lied about his involvement in Iran-contra (saying he had been "out of the loop," though noting in a private diary that he had been one of the few officials in-the-know), was elected president in 1988.

The investigations continued. Abrams, McFarlane (who botched a suicide attempt), and a CIA officer named Alan Fiers pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress. Two other CIA officers--Clair George and Duane Clarridge--were indicted on perjury-related charges. Former General Richard Secord and Albert Hakim, who managed the secret contra supply operation, pleaded guilty to minor charges. North and Poindexter were convicted of various counts, but their convictions were overturned on legal technicalities. Weinberger was indicted for illegally withholding his notes from special counsel Lawrence Walsh.

The affair came to an ignominious finale on Christmas Eve, 1992. George H.W. Bush, who had been defeated by Bill Clinton seven weeks earlier, issued pardons for Weinberger, Abrams, McFarlane, Clarridge, George and Fiers. Only Thomas Cline, a former CIA officer and partner of Secord and Hakim, who was found guilty of tax charges, ended up going to jail due to the Iran-contra scandal.

But history never ends. Twenty years later, Abrams is deputy national security adviser for global democracy in the George W. Bush administration. A fellow who admitted that he had not told Congress the truth and who had abetted a secret war mounted by a rebel force with an atrocious human rights record now is supposed to promote democracy abroad. Other Iran-contra figures are leading players today. Here's a partial list from the National Security Archive:

* Richard Cheney - now the vice president, he played a prominent part as a member of the joint congressional Iran-Contra inquiry of 1986, taking the position that Congress deserved major blame for asserting itself unjustifiably onto presidential turf. He later pointed to the committees' Minority Report as an important statement on the proper roles of the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

* David Addington - now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, and by numerous press accounts a stanch advocate of expanded presidential power, Addington was a congressional staffer during the joint select committee hearings in 1986 who worked closely with Cheney.

* John Bolton - the controversial U.N. ambassador whose recess appointment by President Bush is now in jeopardy was a senior Justice Department official who participated in meetings with Attorney General Edwin Meese on how to handle the burgeoning Iran-Contra political and legal scandal in late November 1986. There is little indication of his precise role at the time.

* Robert M. Gates - President Bush's nominee to succeed Donald Rumsfeld, Gates nearly saw his career go up in flames over charges that he knew more about Iran-Contra while it was underway than he admitted once the scandal broke. He was forced to give up his bid to head the CIA in early 1987 because of suspicions about his role but managed to attain the position when he was re-nominated in 1991.

* Manuchehr Ghorbanifar - the quintessential middleman, who helped broker the arms deals involving the United States, Israel and Iran ostensibly to bring about the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon, Ghorbanifar was almost universally discredited for misrepresenting all sides' goals and interests. Even before the Iran deals got underway, the CIA had ruled Ghorbanifar off-limits for purveying bad information to U.S. intelligence. Yet, in 2006 his name has resurfaced as an important source for the Pentagon on current Iranian affairs, again over CIA objections.

* Michael Ledeen - a neo-conservative who is vocal on the subject of regime change in Iran, Ledeen helped bring together the main players in what developed into the Iran arms-for-hostages deals in 1985 before being relegated to a bit part. He reportedly reprised his role shortly after 9/11, introducing Ghorbanifar to Pentagon officials interested in exploring contacts inside Iran.

* Edwin Meese - currently a member of the blue-ribbon Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, he was Ronald Reagan's controversial attorney general who spearheaded an internal administration probe into the Iran-Contra connection in November 1986 that was widely criticized as a political exercise in protecting the president rather than a genuine inquiry by the nation's top law enforcement officer.

* John Negroponte - the career diplomat who worked quietly to boost the U.S. military and intelligence presence in Central America as ambassador to Honduras, he also participated in efforts to get the Honduran government to support the Contras after Congress banned direct U.S. aid to the rebels. Negroponte's profile has risen spectacularly with his appointments as ambassador to Iraq in 2004 and director of national intelligence in 2005.

Another Iran-contra veteran has dramatically returned to the scene recently: Daniel Ortega. On November 7, as the Bush White House prepared itself for congressional elections that would be widely seen as a repudiation of its war in Iraq, the morning newspapers carried the news that Ortega, the Sandinista leader whom the Reagan administration had targeted, had won a presidential election in Nicaragua. The old contras backers now running the Bush administration had to watch their old nemesis (not that Ortega was ever much of a threat) regain power, as their hold on power was slipping. The arc of history is indeed long.

As for the current relevance of Iran-contra, one could argue that the affair taught Reaganites and neocons a lesson, the wrong lesson: you can get away with it. Though the operations ended up being exposed and the Iran deal crashed and burned, the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration did create enough pressure on Nicaragua and forced the expulsion of the Sandinista government in a 1990 election. Perhaps more important for this crowd, no one involved in the shady activity was held accountable. Bush the First was elected. Abrams and other scandal vets were rewarded with prominent posts in the next Republican administration--that of Bush the Younger. The Reaganites had lied to Congress and the public about Iran-contra and ultimately escaped retribution.

This sordid episode hardly served as a warning--either for the Iran-contra alumni who would lead the United States into the debacle in Iraq or for voters who would support an administration staffed with people who twenty years earlier had made their bones in a scandal involving war and truth. One can hope, though, that the disingenuous, reality-defying engineers of the current disaster will be too old or too discredited to return to power two decades from now.


DON"T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris "the most comprehensive account of the White House's political machinations" and "fascinating reading."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Robert Gates: advocate of terrorism,0,5508834.story?track=tothtml
Gates pushed for bombing of Sandinistas
His 1984 memo called for 'hard measures' against Nicaragua.
By Julian E. Barnes
Times Staff Writer

November 25, 2006

WASHINGTON — Robert M. Gates, President Bush's nominee to lead the Pentagon, advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in 1984 in order to "bring down" the leftist government, according to a declassified memo released by a nonprofit research group.

The memo from Gates to his then-boss, CIA Director William J. Casey, was among a selection of declassified documents from the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal posted Friday on the website of the National Security Archive, .

In the memo, Gates, who was deputy director of the CIA, argued that the Soviet Union was turning Nicaragua into an armed camp and that the country could become a second Cuba. The rise of the communist-leaning Sandinista government threatened the stability of Central America, Gates asserted.

Gates' memo echoed the view of many foreign policy hard-liners at the time; however, the feared communist takeover of the region never materialized.

"It seems to me," Gates wrote, "that the only way that we can prevent disaster in Central America is to acknowledge openly what some have argued privately: that the existence of a Marxist-Leninist regime in Nicaragua closely allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba is unacceptable to the United States and that the United States will do everything in its power short of invasion to put that regime out."

Gates predicted that without U.S. funding, the Nicaraguan anti-communist forces known as Contras would collapse within one or two years. But he said that providing "new funding" for the Contras was not good enough. Instead, he advocated that the United States withdraw diplomatic recognition of the Sandinista government, provide overt assistance to a government in exile, impose economic sanctions or a quarantine, and use airstrikes to destroy Nicaragua's "military buildup."

"It sounds like Donald Rumsfeld," said National Security Archive Director Thomas S. Blanton. "It shows the same kind of arrogance and hubris that got us into Iraq."

In the memo, Gates noted he was advocating "hard measures" that "probably are politically unacceptable."

Indeed, Blanton said, Gates' advocacy of military strikes against Nicaragua was extreme.

"It sure wasn't a mainstream opinion; most Americans thought we shouldn't be doing anything in Nicaragua," Blanton said. "How possibly was our national security interest at stake?"

Reached late Friday, Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman, said he was not familiar with the memo. Stanzel said Gates would not be available for comment because it was standard practice for nominees to reject interview requests before Senate confirmation hearings.

Blanton said it would be wrong to look at a 22-year-old memo as evidence of Gates' current thinking. Gates seems to have changed after his nomination for CIA director was withdrawn in 1987, Blanton said. When Gates became CIA director in 1991, he was chastened and his earlier "arrogance" diminished.

"People change," Blanton said. "And very possibly the Robert Gates nominated for secretary of Defense is the Robert Gates who is the best CIA director we ever had, and not the Robert Gates who was a 'mini-me' Rumsfeld."

The memo offers some insights into how Gates viewed historical lessons, at least in 1984.

Gates wrote that the United States wrongly thought in the late 1950s that it could encourage Castro to form a pluralistic government. And he said that in Vietnam the United States took a series of half measures that "enabled the enemy to adjust to each new turn of the screw" by the war's end, he said, the country was able to tolerate severe bombing campaigns.

"Half measures, halfheartedly applied, will have the same result in Nicaragua," Gates wrote.

It was probably the election of Daniel Ortega to the Nicaraguan presidency in November 1984 that prompted Gates to write his memo of Dec. 14, 1984.

Ortega was elected again to the presidency this year, although he now presents himself as a moderate.

In the memo, Gates concluded that the Contra rebels alone would not be able to overthrow the Sandinista regime, even with U.S. money.

It was the Reagan administration's attempts to find ways to provide funding for the Nicaraguan rebels even after Congress forbade such support that led to the Iran-Contra scandal, a plan to use the proceeds of arms sales to Iran to fund the Contras.

The Iran-Contra affair erupted in the public spotlight 20 years ago. Gates' role in the scandal was investigated by Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh and was the focus of confirmation hearings for Gates' 1987 nomination for CIA director.

Gates denied any wrongdoing in the scandal. Most of the debate over Gates' role centers on what he knew about the plan.

According to documents released by the National Security Archive and others, Gates seems to have known about Oliver North's attempts to raise money for the Contras, but opposed the idea and tried to keep the CIA out of it.

Critics have said Gates failed to make inquiries about the scandal that could have stopped the scheme from going forward.

Walsh concluded that Gates was "less than candid" but did not bring charges against him.

Gates' suggestions for Nicaragua policy were never adopted by the Reagan administration. And, on the whole, Gates' predictions in the 1984 memo didn't pan out.

Nicaragua did not become a communist dictatorship. The Sandinista regime did not lead to the fall of U.S.-backed governments in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala. Ortega and the Sandinistas were voted out of office in 1990. A year later the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Manuel Lopez Obrador assumes "legitimate" presidency in Mexico

MEXICO CITY: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico's self-proclaimed "legitimate president," on Wednesday proposed a law to lower the cost of goods and services.

The action comes two days after he declared himself president and it gives some indication of how Lopez Obrador, who lost to conservative Felipe Calderon by a razor-thin margin on July 2, plans to operate his parallel government, which has no legal standing. Calderon will be sworn in Dec. 1.

Under Lopez Obrador's proposal, a commission charged with monitoring prices could order companies to lower the cost of goods and services if they are at least 10 percent more expensive than corresponding items in the United States, Canada and Central America.

Some analysts have suggested that Lopez Obrador, who claims Calderon won by fraud and has refused to accept the results, could be a positive influence if he used his clout to push for changes in Congress, where his coalition has the second-largest bloc of seats.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

News from Mexico: the new administration

Lessons from the Teachers: Oaxaca

Lessons from the Teachers

Repression and Resistance in Oaxaca


A profound political crisis is shaking up Mexico. The rules that regulate the balance of power between elites have been violated. From above, there is no agreement or any possibility for one in the short term.

A severe crisis in the model of control has eroded relationships of domination in many parts of Mexican national territory. People accustomed to obeying have refused to do so. People who think they are destined to rule have been unable to impose their command. Those from below have become disobedient. When those on the top want to impose their opinion from above, in the name of the law, they are ignored from below. Nowhere is the breakdown in control and the effervescence of rebellion as obvious as in the state of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is a state plagued with social problems. It is a Mexican tourist enclave, surrounded by poverty where people survive on remittances sent by migrant workers abroad. Within its territory one finds land struggles, confrontations between caciques(local bosses ) and coyotes (migrant smugglers), local government conflicts, ethnic revenge, fights for better prices for agricultural products, and resistance against the authoritarian state.

Since May 15, Oaxaca has been in the throes of its most massive and significant social movement in recent history. The protest begun by Section 22 of the national teachers' union (SNTE, for its initials in Spanish) soon became the expression of the social contradictions in the state. It is not at all unusual that teachers mobilize for pay raises around the time of the contract negotiation. This time it has gone well beyond a union struggle to fuse protests of many groups. Oaxacan society has come out in force to show its solidarity with the teachers and add in other demands and grievances. Around 350 organizations, indigenous communities, unions, and non-profits have jointed to form the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO).

Lessons from the Teachers

The teachers' movement is the only democratic force with a presence throughout the state. It's the only organization capable of making their political presence felt simultaneously in every municipality of the state.

Oaxacan teachers work in precarious conditions. Their students arrive at school with empty stomachs and drop out so they can help their families work in the fields. Their classrooms are entirely unequipped. In order to get to the communities they work in, they often have to invest their own time and money in transportation, using roads that only exist in official reports. Teachers have come to identify closely with the precarious conditions of their communities they work in and become not only fighters within their union, but the voices of the community's demands as well.

The protest in Oaxaca started as an expression of the union's struggle for a pay raise based on rezoning cost of living scales. This is nothing new with respect to struggles in years past. Their protest began on the same symbolic and traditional date as it has for many years: May 15, Teacher's Day. It is also common to use the presidential succession, to increase pressure on the government to negotiate.

The protest radicalized as a result of the state government's refusal to respond to their demands. Instead of sitting down to negotiate, the governor threatened the teachers, and then sent police to forcefully evacuate education workers camped out in downtown Oaxaca. The outrageous repression of June 14 radicalized the teachers, and from then on they demanded the resignation of the state governor. Instead of seeking solutions, the federal government pretended not to notice and said that it was a local issue over which it had no authority.

This explosive political situation was further polarized as a result of the last Oaxacan gubernatorial election. Gabino Cué, backed by the ex governor Diódoro Carrasco and a coalition of the majority of opposition parties, confronted Ulises Ruiz, one of the main operators of Madrazo, at that time candidate of the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) for the presidency. The tight win by the PRI was seriously questioned by Cué supporters, who claimed election fraud against him.

The teachers feel such responsibility to their communities that the majority of them left the capital occupation for a few weeks to end the school year with their communities. Since classes are out they have returned to the city to carry out their plan of action. The city of Oaxaca is theirs.

The Movement Grows

The claims of the teachers quickly found an echo in a broad cross-section of Oaxacan society. Bothered by the electoral fraud that brought Ulises Ruiz to power, as well as governmental violence against the group of community and regional organizations, thousands of Oaxacans took the streets and more than 30 town halls.

Since that time a large part of the society does not recognize Ulises Ruiz as governor. Since a May 25 meeting between Ruiz and the Negotiation Commission, they have not seen him. July 11 the APPO began, successfully, a round of pacific civil disobedience that seeks to make obvious the lack of governance and authority that exists in the state.

The movement took political control of the city of Oaxaca. Since the occupation by federal police that retook the center on Oct. 29, the movement has blocked the entrances to expensive downtown hotels and the local airport; it obstructs traffic and impedes the entrance to public buildings and the state congress.

Ruiz, desperate to keep power, betrayed his boss, PRI presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, proposing at a meeting of PRI state governors that they recognize PAN candidate Felipe Calderón as the winner of the presidential contest. The federal government, needing allies to confront the protests over presidential election fraud, has responded by maintaining the teetering governor.

As time passes the situation worsens. On July 22 a group of 20 unknown people fired high-powered weapons at the Radio Universidad facilities. The university radio station, run by the movement, has been converted into a formidable instrument of information and social mobilization. The same day Molotov cocktails were thrown at several movement leaders.

Dirty War

Physical violence against protesters is not new to Oaxaca. In the '80s Amnesty International published a broad report documenting human rights violations in rural areas of Oaxaca and Chiapas. Taking power by force, murders of political dissidents, forced disappearances, and arbitrary detentions have been common instruments used by a succession of state governments to maintain control in the state.

The list of atrocities committed by the government of Ulises Ruiz against the teachers movement and the APPO grows day by day. Combined with the lack of governance and stability in the state a serious human rights crisis has emerged.

The assassination of dissenting citizens at the hands of hired hit men and plainclothes police, open fire against newspapers and independent radio stations, kidnapping and torture of social leaders by paramilitaries, death threats, underground detention centers, arson of buses by groups affiliated with PRI authorities, and random detention without warrant of movement leaders are some of the aggressions committed against the civic movement that demands the resignation of the governor.

The novel aspects of the violence against resisters is that it seeks to dispel and intimidate the broadest and most vigorous social movement the state has seen in decades, and-with the exception of the October police offensive-it is done "unofficially." This means that the majority of the repressive acts are executed by state police and paramilitaries dressed as civilians.

The state government does not usually admit to responsibility for these incidents, although it has admitted that it his holding some of the individuals originally "disappeared" in high-security prisons. In Oaxaca a new episode is being played out of the dirty war that shook the country in the '70s and '80s and resulted in the disappearance of 1,200 people.

To "justify" the dirty war, the government and part of the media have spread the message that the Oaxacan popular movement has been "infiltrated" by leftist, politically militant organizations that have radicalized the protest. But the movement for the resignation of the governor has been explicitly framed as an act of civil disobedience, and has followed clearly pacifistic paths. At no time has the APPO used firearms in their actions. The radicalism comes from the governmental authoritarianism. The violence is originating from the other side.

An Organized Society

Oaxacan society is highly organized into ethnopolitical groups, communities, farms, producers, unions, and environmental and immigrant defense groups. It has built solid, permanent transnational networks. The traditional methods of governmental domination, based on a combination of co-opting, negotiation, division, manipulation of demands and repression, have run out. The new dirty war has become the last resort of a cornered political class to recover the chain of command.

In Mexico there is a long history of social struggles that precipitate larger scale conflicts. They are an alarm bell that alerts a country to serious political problems that have not been resolved. For example, the workers' strikes at Cananea and Rio Blanco are recognized as predecessors to the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917. The popular movement that has shaken Oaxaca since May is an expression of this type of protests. It has revealed the end of the old forms of domination, the crisis between the political class and society, and the path that the people's discontent could take throughout the country.

The movement has ceased to be a traditional struggle or protest and begun to transform itself into an embryo of an alternative government. The governmental institutions are increasingly empty shells without authority or public confidence, while the people's assemblies have become the site of construction of a new political mandate.

Federal Police Force Arrives

When the federal government finally sends the federal police, in the streets of Oaxaca the people confront them with peaceful protests. They hold up handwritten banners that state simply: "leave, you're not welcome." Thousands of people use their bodies as their only weapon to resist the political aggression. Through their actions, they convert fear into anger, humiliation into dignity.

At three of the barricades the tension is higher. People throw sticks and stones. A few decide to toss Molotov cocktails. Others launch bottle rockets. From Radio Universidad, the voice of the movement against Ulises Ruiz, announcers urge protesters repeatedly to use pacific means to confront the incursion of federal troops. Be patience, be calm, be smart, they warn. Don't let yourself be provoked, they insist.

The government's offer to carry out a clean dissuasion operation with no physical contact goes up in smoke in the first moments. Empty words. The police throw tear gas, wave their clubs around, shoot off firearms, ransack private homes, detain individuals, confront journalists, and seize their materials. Their byword is advance with all you've got. They take over public buildings, erase evidence of their mistakes and excesses, and make their strength felt.

Fighting Fire with Gasoline

As in Atenco, the government launches a huge media campaign to cover up the atrocities of its henchmen. Fox declares there are no deaths, that the results are "a clean record." But the voice of the dead exposes the truth. More than 50 detainees refute him. The wounded deny his words.

The battle of Oaxaca is the most important popular revolt in many years and could mark the future of social protest in Mexico. Although the powerful say that the police incursion was to guarantee public safety, what is really behind the repression is the destruction of the newly woven grassroots social consciousness and the decision to support Ulises Ruiz.

While federal forces act like an occupying army swollen by the positions it has managed to retake, Oaxacans fly hundreds of Mexican flags and sing the national anthem. In the fight for patriotic symbols, the government loses the first round. A short time after the federal forces took the center of the city and strategic positions, citizens put up new barricades behind their backs. People from highland communities come down to the capital to support the movement. They didn't just come to march in a demonstration. A human fence has arisen that surrounds the aggressors.

There is no way to return to normalcy through violence. No way to knit the social fabric through police occupation. Governing requires that the governed recognize the legitimacy of their leaders. This acceptance does not exist in Oaxaca and will never be attained with clubs and boots. Quite the opposite, the fermenting inconformity has spread all over the country because of the new aggressions. If until now some sectors of society had remained neutral, the federal offensive has obliged them to take part.

The images on the seven o'clock news of confrontations between made-in-Mexico robocops and the students and Oaxacan neighbors that defended the university on Day of the Dead made it around the world. The Mexican police were defeated by a popular uprising and the media bore witness.

The battle for Oaxaca is not over yet. On the contrary, the solution to this conflict is more complicated now than ever and the resolution even further away. As the unavoidable saying goes: they tried to put out the fire with gasoline.

The latest move of the people's movement has been to convert their protest into a central item on the national agenda. The following months will be marked by the conflict. The federal government has got itself into a quagmire that it can't get out of.

Oaxaca is today, more than ever, Mexico. The civil disobedience there is close to becoming a popular uprising that, far from wearing out, grows and becomes more radical every day. The establishment of forms of self-government is reminiscent of the Paris Commune of 1871. The way things are going, the example set by the nascent Oaxaca Commune is far from being limited to that state. It could be a taste of what may sweep the country due to the governmental refusal to clear up and clean up the presidential elections of July 2.

Luis Hernández Navarro is Opinion Editor at La Jornada in Mexico, where parts of this text were published. He is a collaborator with the Americas Program online at

Translated by Katherine Kohlstedt.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Leftist Obrador establishes parallel government in Mexico

Mexican leftist Lopez Obrador to swear self in as head of parallel government

The Associated Press

Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a parallel government Monday that will swear him in as Mexico's "legitimate" president, a ceremony he hopes will revive a movement aimed at keeping President-elect Felipe Calderon from governing.

The inauguration ceremony marks the latest chapter in Lopez Obrador's unsuccessful battle for the presidency. He claims fraud and dirty campaign tactics were responsible for Calderon's narrow victory in the July 2 vote, and his parallel government could spend the next six years calling for street protests that have already wreaked havoc with the economy and prompted travel warnings from the U.S. Embassy.

While the red-green-and-white presidential sash to be draped across Lopez Obrador's shoulders Monday will lack any legal recognition, he hopes to assume the moral leadership of millions of poor Mexicans.

Based in Mexico City, Lopez Obrador's parallel government has its own Cabinet. But it will not collect taxes or make laws, and it relies on donations to carry out its plans.

One of its first orders of business will be trying to prevent Calderon's Dec. 1 inauguration ceremony.

"We're not going to give the right free rein," Lopez Obrador said in a final stop in the southeastern state of Veracruz this weekend. "We're going to confront it."

It remains to be seen whether Lopez Obrador can keep up the momentum. Some members of his leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, have already expressed disagreement with Lopez Obrador's strategy of using Congress — where the PRD is now the second-largest force — as an arena for protests rather than negotiations.

Mexico City columnist Armando Fuentes described Lopez Obrador's "swearing in" ceremony as "laughable" and "a circus act, a farce."

But political science professor Oscar Aguilar cautioned that the leftist could have the backing to undermine Calderon.

"The problem is that he's not a Don Quijote because the social and political conditions are fertile ground for this kind of leadership," Aguilar said. "Many of the poor ... see this type of leadership as a solution."

Protesters in southern Oaxaca City have seized the city center for months, demanding Gov. Ulises Ruiz's ouster, despite the presence of federal police. Many worry that Lopez Obrador will follow suit and renew street protests, including those in which his supporters seized Mexico City's center for nearly two months this summer.

Some citizens appear to be tiring of political unrest.

This month, Mexico City was rattled when several bombs exploded at political offices and banks. No one was injured, and a small, radical group not tied to Lopez Obrador claimed responsibility.

The violence has affected one of the country's main sources of income. Revenue from tourism was down 4.3 percent in the first nine months of 2006, as compared to 2005.

Appealing to the desire for calm, President Vicente Fox cautioned in a speech Monday that "the electoral process is the path that Mexicans have to preserve a peaceful, orderly, civilized and pluralistic public and political life."

Fox canceled a traditional Nov. 20 parade commemorating the start of the country's 1910-1917 Revolution, in an apparent bid to avoid friction with Lopez Obrador's event, which is also scheduled for Mexico City's main plaza.

On Monday, he urged Mexicans to follow the path of democracy.

"Nobody has the right to think or decide for the people," Fox said.

But Lopez Obrador's platform resonates with many Mexicans, so much so that the business-friendly Calderon from Fox's conservative National Action Party has borrowed ideas from Lopez Obrador's legislative agenda, like pensions for the elderly and reductions in utility rates for the poor.

Some of Lopez Obrador's closest aides have suggested they will follow Bolivia's example and try to use protests to force Calderon from office, as demonstrators did with a succession of leaders there. Lopez Obrador hasn't ruled that out.

"Nobody wants violence in our country, but there are people who give grounds for violence," Lopez Obrador said last week. "There are a lot of people who say that, after July 2, the path of electoral politics in no longer viable."

Copyright © 2006 The International Herald Tribune |

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Iranian student at UCLA tazered/tortured by police

This is from You tube.

I don't think that he could get up. What do you think?

Sacramento group condemns UCLA police assault on a student because his parents ( or grandparents) were Iranian immigrants.

Police from the University of California at Los Angeles on Tuesday demanded that a Sacramento area student Mostafa Tabatabainejad show identification while studying in the library and then assaulted him with taser weapons rendering him incapable of responding to their orders. Then, when he could not respond to their commands, they assaulted him at least six additional times with the tasers. Video of the event is readily available on You Tube.

We- the Sacramento Progressive Alliance- find it appropriate that the student is suing the University for violation of his rights. The student was assaulted based upon racial profiling. Defending the rights of individuals from abuse of authority “under color of law” is one means of limiting this behavior and protecting the rights of us all.

It is not clear if the repeated use of the taser was a deliberate act of torture or was it incompetence that the police did not know they were making demands that the student could not respond to. Use of a taser can prevent the subject from physical response.

A Taser delivers volts of low-amperage energy to the body, causing a disruption of the body’s electrical energy pulses and locking the muscles, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal in 2001, a charge of three to five seconds can result in immobilization for five to 15 minutes, which would mean that Tabatabainejad could have been physically unable to stand when the officers demanded that he do so.
“It is a real mistake to treat a Taser as some benign thing that painlessly brings people under control,” said Peter Eliasberg, managing attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “The Taser can be incredibly violent and result in death,” Eliasberg said.
According to an ACLU report, 148 people in the United States and Canada have died as a result of the use of Tasers since 1999.

It is the position of the Sacramento Progressive Alliance that terrorists can not destroy our democracy, but that we can- by simply allowing illegal assaults and torture to be used on persons based upon racial profiling because their parents were immigrants.
The number of times that the taser was used is important and is not covered in the television reporting of the assault. There might be a debate about the first use- but the six subsequent uses were torture.
Non-scientific polls on television stations and Youtube after the event revealed up to 80% support for the police action indicating wide spread acceptance of illegal behavior and torture.
The University of California is a tax payer funded institution, and the police at UCLA are public employees. If we accept this abuse of force we are giving away some of our hard won rights simply because a police officer, with minimal training, gives an order.

The police officers involved should be removed from duty (without pay) during the conduction of an investigation and police on all the campuses should be banned from using taser weapons until this matter is resolved.

The Sacramento Progressive Alliance is community based political action committee with over 1,400 members in the Sacramento region. For more information see:

Crisis in Oaxaca

Crisis in Oaxaca: What You Need to Know
by Bill Weinberg
The Oaxaca crisis began when the state's school teachers went on strike May 22, demanding not only raises but bigger budgets for schools in poor rural parts of the state. Governor Ulises Ruiz refused to budge on their demands. The teachers launched a sit-in at Oaxaca City's central square, the zocalo, and began occupying several streets in the downtown historic district. As Ruiz held his ground, the sit-in swelled to a tent city of several thousand.
In a pre-dawn raid on June 14, Oaxaca state police, some in helicopters, armed with tear gas and rifles attacked the encampment. Witnesses said police fired on the crowd, and protesters later reported three dead—claims disputed by the state government. The teachers counter-attacked, hurling gas cannisters back at the police lines and charging them with commandeered buses. Within hours, they had re-taken the zocalo.

This proved the turning point. The demand now became for the ouster of Governor Ruiz, who the strikers claimed had been fraudulently elected. A coalition of grassroots and civil organizations congealed around the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), and this group seized control of the Oaxaca City center. Ruiz and his bureaucracy had to retreat to hotels on the outskirts of the city. Radio and TV stations were also taken over by the protesters. APPO pledged to make Oaxaca "ungovernable."

By the end of July, mysterious gunmen—presumed to be state police in civilian clothes—were attempting to use terror to beat back the movement. On August 10, unknown gunmen fired on an APPO march, killing one man, Jose Jimenez, the husband of a striking teacher. On August 22, gunmen fired on an occupied radio station, killing one of occupiers, Lorenzo Pablo.

By this point, peasant and indigenous councils affiliated with APPO had seized control of towns and villages throughout the state. In early September, APPO announced that it was forming an alternative government. It had become the real power in the state of Oaxaca.

On September 21, some 4,000 people left Oaxaca City on a cross-country march to Mexico City. The federal government entered into negotiations with APPO and the striking teachers. In mid-October, a Senate committee began meeting to consider a resolution officially dissolving Ruiz's powers.Thousands of APPO activists and teachers maintained an ongoing encampment outside the Senate building.

On October 14, gunmen shot two people at a roadblock in Oaxaca City, killing one. Two days later, several of the Oaxaca activists camped out at the Senate building began a hunger strike. But on the 18th, the Senate committee voted not to remove Ruiz. That night in Oaxaca City, another teacher was killed by unknown assailants.

In the midst of all this, Mexico had witnessed a dramatic showdown over the contested presidential elections. The left opposition has declared their own candidate, former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, as Mexico's "legitimate president," and pledged a civil disobedience campaign to prevent president-elect Felipe Calderon from taking office. There were signs that the local revolution in Oaxaca could serve as a template for a national uprising. On October 26, APPO issued a "call for a popular peaceful insurrection" starting December 1 if Ruiz had not stepped down by then.

Brad Will and two local protesters were fatally shot on October 27 as an APPO barricade on the outskirts of Oaxaca City again came under fire.

Fox announced an "extraordinary" program for the "total recuperation" of Oaxaca. On October 29, thousands of federal police with water cannons, tear gas, helicopters, and armored vehicles stormed past barricades, seizing control of the city center. The next day, Mexico's official National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) said two deaths had been confirmed since the federal forces entered Oaxaca, and at least 40 arrests.

President Fox declared victory, saying, "The plaza and city were recovered for the citizenry of Oaxaca." Dismissing reports of two deaths, Fox described the operation as "bloodless."

But the degree of federal police control of Oaxaca City remains uncertain. Press accounts quoted APPO leader Flavio Sosa saying the police had recovered only the area around the zocalo, after protesters ceded it in the face of overwhelming force. "The control of the rest of the city is in the hands of APPO," Sosa said. "I want to tell you that we are not going to hand over control of the city. We are going to resist at every barricade."

The APPO has established a new central encampment in a plaza a few blocks away from the police-occupied zocalo. Oaxaca City seems divide d by areas of federal and APPO control.

There have now been over 80 arrests by the federal police in Oaxaca City; many people are being held incomunicado, even as reports of human rights abuses in the jails are mounting. The army has also established checkpoints on the outskirts of town, and there are reports of activists being illegally detained at these roadblocks. In once case, two detained by the army—a local teacher and a student from the national university—were reportedly taken to a military camp, tortured and beaten for hours, and finally put naked and bound aboard a helicopter, where they were threatened with being thrown overboard into the sea. They were then turned over to a state prison, where, following the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission, relatives were allowed access to them, and they related their ordeal. Amnesty International has called upon the Mexican government to release the names of all those arrested, and what charges they are being held on.

Protests have spread to other cities in Mexico. On November 4, Zapatista Subcommander Marcos and supporters blocked the international bridge linking Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas. Maquiladora workers also blocked the international bridge between Matamoros and Brownsville in solidarity with the APPO. Meanwhile, in Chiapas, Zapatistas blocked roads and rebel peasants shut down the international bridge on the Guatemalan border with their bodies.

In a more sinister development, on the morning of November 6 bombs exploded at three high-profile targets in Mexico City: the national headquarters of the PRI, the Federal Electoral Tribunal, which had ruled in favor of Calderon in September, and a branch of a Canadian bank. There was property damage but no casualties. A communique jointly signed by five small guerilla groups active in the mountains of the Mexican south claimed responsibility, saying the action was a response to the repression in Oaxaca and warning the government against using the attacks "as a pretext to generate psychosis in the citizenry and to continue repressing the civil, peaceful organizations and movements."

Bill Weinberg is author of Homage to Chiapas: The New Indigenous Struggles in Mexico (Verso 2000) and editor of the electronic journal World War 4 Report

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Racial gaps make a difference

Racial gaps persist in region, U.S.

Bee Staff And News Services -

Sacramento may be one of the most racially integrated cities in America, but when it comes to many of the things that make life good -- income, homeownership, educational attainment -- its residents, like the rest of the country, live far apart.

Consider these numbers for the Sacramento metropolitan area released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau:

• The median income of white households -- the middle number in a ranked list of incomes -- was $58,248 in 2005, about 55 percent higher than the $37,594 median household income for blacks. White households earned about 30 percent more than Hispanics last year.

• Sacramento-area whites last year were almost twice as likely as blacks and Hispanics to have a bachelor's degree.

• About seven of every 10 local white households last year owned their home, compared to just four of every 10 black households and five of every 10 Hispanic households.

All of those gaps show up, to some extent, nationwide, the Census Bureau numbers show. Some of the gaps, like the divide between the incomes of white and Hispanic households, are a bit smaller in the Sacramento region -- Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties -- than across the country. Others, like the gap between homeownership among whites and blacks, are a bit larger.

But, locally and nationally, the divide is vast. And in some areas, like the gap between white and black household incomes, it has grown since 2000.

"Race is so associated with class in the United States that it may not be direct discrimination, but it still matters indirectly," said Dalton Conley, a sociology professor at New York University and the author of "Being Black, Living in the Red."

"It doesn't mean it's any less powerful just because it's indirect," he said.

Homeownership grew among white middle class families after World War II when access to credit and government programs made buying houses affordable. Black families were largely left out because of discrimination, and the effects are still being felt today, said Lance Freeman, assistant professor of urban planning at Columbia University and author of "There Goes the 'Hood."

Homeownership creates wealth, which enables families to live in good neighborhoods with good schools. It also helps families finance college, which leads to better-paying jobs, perpetuating the cycle, Freeman said.

"If your parents own their own home, they can leave it to you when they pass on or they can use the equity to help you with a down payment on yours," he said.

Homeownership is near an all-time high in the United States, but racial gaps have increased in the past 25 years.

Black families also have been hurt by the decline of manufacturing jobs -- the same jobs that helped propel many white families into the middle class after World War II, said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington office.

Among Hispanics, education, income and homeownership gaps are exacerbated by recent Latin American immigrants. Hispanic immigrants have, on average, lower incomes and education levels than people born in here. About 40 percent of U.S. Hispanics are immigrants.

Asian Americans, on average, have higher incomes and education levels than whites. However, they have higher poverty rates and lower homeownership rates.

The census data are from the American Community Survey, the bureau's new annual survey of 3 million households.

Thomas Shapiro, professor of law and social policy at Brandeis University, said the "easiest answer" to narrowing racial gaps is to promote homeownership, which would help minority families accumulate wealth.

Bee staff writer Phillip Reese and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

All data based upon the U.S. Census. a public document.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nicaragua and Ortega

From Z net
The scare stories spun by conservative pundits like Klugmann echo the only somewhat more subtle alarmism voiced by Republican lawmakers in the lead-up to the Nicaraguan elections. In recent years, the White House has chosen to remain silent during many electoral contests in Latin America. This does not reflect a newfound respect for democratic self-determination; it is pragmatic. Washington learned the hard way that its admonitions can backfire when delivered to Latin America voters fed up with having economic policy dictated from the North--as was the case in Bolivia in 2002, when US attacks on Evo Morales helped him gain the stature that would ultimately propel him to the presidency this year. However, the United States has maintained an overt involvement in some elections, especially in cold-war hot spots Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Bush Administration efforts over the past year to prevent the Nicaraguan electorate from choosing Ortega were particularly heavy-handed. Violating diplomatic protocol, US Ambassador Paul Trivelli expressed an open preference for Ortega's opponents, and he made repeated efforts to unite the Nicaraguan right around a single candidate. (He failed, and the divide among Nicaraguan conservatives helped pave the way for the Sandinistas'
victory.) Adding to Trivelli's meddling, US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez suggested that more than $220 million in aid and hundreds of millions more in investments could be jeopardized if voters picked the wrong candidate.

In the last week of the campaign, several Republican members of Congress stepped up the threats. Most radically, they proposed to block the stream of money sent from Nicaraguan immigrants in the United States to impoverished family members back home in Central America. In an October 30 letter to Nicaraguan Ambassador Salvador Stadthagen, Representative Tom Tancredo wrote, "if the FSLN takes control of the government in Nicaragua, it may be necessary for the United States authorities to examine closely and possibly apply special controls to the flow of $850 million in remittances from the United States to Nicaragua--unfortunately to the detriment of many people living in Nicaragua." In a public letter addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Representatives Ed Royce and Peter Hoekstra added, "We share US Ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli's assessment that an Ortega victory would force the United States to fully 're-evaluate' relations with Nicaragua."

With the memory of the United States' debilitating economic embargo of the 1980s still fresh, Nicaraguan voters do not take suggestions of retaliation from Washington lightly. In 1990 the United States made clear that its embargo, as well as funding for terrorist contra forces, would continue if Ortega were re-elected. This blackmail played a decisive role in pushing the Sandinistas from office.

Ironically, even as the White House portrays Ortega as a committed and unrepentant leftist, the real concern is whether he has fully compromised the progressive ideals he once espoused as a leader in the movement that overthrew Nicaragua's longstanding Somoza dictatorship. Ortega has been criticized by former partisans for keeping a tight hold on the leadership of the Sandinistas, quashing efforts to democratize the party and expelling members like former Managua Mayor Herty Lewites, who announced intentions to challenge Ortega's power. In the 1990s, many of the most prominent cultural and intellectual figures in the Sandinista movement, including liberation theologian and poet Ernesto Cardenal, poet and novelist Gioconda Belli and Ortega's former Vice President Sergio Ramirez, broke ranks to form a dissident party, the Sandinista Renovation Movement. In the first half of this year, Lewites made a strong showing as that party's presidential candidate, but he suffered a massive heart attack and died in July, crippling the Renovation Movement's efforts for the election cycle.

Beyond internal strife within the Sandinistas, Ortega's record has been marred by public scandals. In 1998 a grown stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez, accused Ortega of sexually abusing her for years, starting when she was an adolescent. The following year, Ortega brokered a pact with then-president Arnoldo Aleman, who was facing charges of corruption. El pacto, as the shady deal is ominously known in Nicaragua, allowed both men to avoid prosecution by granting them parliamentary immunity. It also made Ortega into one of the country's most weighty power brokers by giving him control over many governmental appointments. While el pacto remains in place, Aleman was later stripped of his immunity and is now under house arrest, having been convicted of embezzling approximately $100 million from the government.

Despite Ortega's many flaws, the return of the Sandinistas to power creates the possibility of change that can genuinely benefit Nicaragua's poor. Ortega campaigned on a platform criticizing the "savage capitalism" implemented by the successive conservative governments that have ruled the country over the past sixteen years. In the decade and a half since the end of the contra war, neoliberal economic policies like privatizing public industries and creating "free trade" zones have failed to launch an economic recovery. Today Nicaragua ranks with Haiti and Bolivia among the poorest nations in the hemisphere. It remains to be seen what Ortega's political program will look like during his new term as president: whether he can be held accountable to the impoverished populations he claims to represent and whether his party can reverse trends of deepening hardship and desperation. But this is no reason not to applaud Nicaraguan voters who stood up to Republican threats, rejected a continuation of neoliberalism and demanded better of their government.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Anti immigrant campaigns in Arizona

[JURIST] Arizona voters Tuesday overwhelmingly passed four measures directed against illegal immigration, approving each one by about a three-to-one margin across the state. If not overruled by the courts, Proposition 100 [text, PDF] will deny bail for illegal immigrants under certain conditions; Proposition 102 [text, PDF] will prohibit illegals from receiving punitive damages in civil suits; and Proposition 300 [text, PDF] will prevent illegals from using state funds for child care and education, including disallowing them to claim in-state tuition at college and universities. Proposition 103 [text, PDF] will establish English as the official state language. In 1988, Arizona voters passed a similar measure, but it was later overruled by the Arizona Supreme Court [text, PDF] and the US Supreme Court [text]. The Arizona Secretary of State [official website] posted the following results Wednesday afternoon:

AZ Prop 100
Yes: 890,021 - 77.8 percent
No: 253,472 - 22.2 percent

AZ Prop 102
Yes: 840,582 - 74.4 percent
No: 289,462 - 25.6 percent

AZ Prop 300
Yes: 809, 658 - 71.7 percent
No: 320,296 - 28.3 percent

AZ Prop 103
Yes: 849,772 - 74.2 percent
No: 295,632 - 25.8 percent

California's Prop. 187 continues to provide a direction for anti immigrant campaigns.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mexico's Legitimate President

Mexico's Legitimate President Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announces his official cabinet

Dear Sirs,

As you may probably know, our Legitimate President Elect has already announced
his official cabinet integrated, among other prominent people, by Mr. José Agustín
Ortíz Pinchetti, as Head of the Secretarat of Politic Affairs; Mr. Gustavo Iruega, to
head the Secretariat of International Affairs, former Attorney General of Mexico City
Mr. Bernardo Batiz, to lead the Secretariat of Justice and Security; Mrs. Claudia Sheinbaum
in charge of the Defense of National Resources such as the Oil Industry (PEMEX), etc., from
attempts of privatization by foreign companies; Mrs. Raquel Sosa to head the Secretariat
of Education, Science and Technology, which will have as its priority the defense of free,
secular and public education at all levels. Mr. Lopez Obrador will be also assisted
by a group of specialists in different ambits such as renowned writer Elena Poniatowska,
businessman and specialist in economics, Mr. Rogelio Ramirez de la O., journalist
Federico Arreola (recently cut off from the newspaper he founded just for supporting
Lopez Obrador), Ignacio Marvan and Jose María Perez Gay.

Mr. Cockcroft, Stephen Lendman, and other highly prestigious writers and journalists have been objectively
discussing and broadcasting the real reasons behind the countless illegitimate activities to prevent
Mr. Lopez Obrador from reaching the presidency of Mexico, perpetrated --as many of us
are already aware-- by the right-wing group currently in power with the support of the right-wing
in the United States and Spain, mainly, and the mercenary media in Mexico and abroad.

History has taught us about the criminal actions by the different USA governments
aided by their accomplices in countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, Chile,
Venezuela, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, to name just a few nations that
have suffered the abusive intervention of the White House, the Pentagon,
in cahoots with the high clergy, the WB and IMF, the mainstream media, which
like those in support of Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon, etc.,
are part of the same goal: global domination of resources...evidently, the
fact that a leftist administration headed by Mr. Lopez Obrador meant a
serious threat to such designs was the real reason for the past
fraudulent election.

To us, members of the National Democratic Convention along with the
efforts of the National Ample Progressive Front, integrated by the
three political parties that formed the Coalition for the Good of All, it is of
paramount importance to continue our efforts to counteract the attacks of the
retrograde right-wing mafia supported by the powerful corporations and
banking institutions who view Mr. Lopez Obrador, the National
Democratic Convention and the National Progressive Front, as a threat.

With our most respectful regards,

Patricia Barba Avila
Coordination of International Media

Ortega wins in Nicaragua

Note: What is not being said.
When the Sandinistas were in power they were attacked by forces financed and organized by the U.S. Some 30,000 Nicaraguans were killed in this mercenary war.
Now, former Sandinista President Ortega is winning the election.
NPR and other news reports say that he is opposed by the U.S. We should correct them. He is opposed by the U.S. Government and the Bush Administration. The U.S. does not have an enemy nor an opponent in Daniel Ortega.

Ortega leads Nicaragua vote
By Jill Replogle and James C. McKinley Jr.
The New York Times

Sixteen years after he left power, Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist president and the Sandinista leader who is still regarded as a sworn foe by many in Washington, appeared headed Monday to a victory in the Nicaraguan presidential election.

Though electoral officials had yet to release final tallies from Sunday's vote, preliminary results and the country's electoral watchdog groups all predicted Ortega, who had failed twice before to gain the presidency in elections, would win a clear victory.

An Ortega win in a five-way race would mark a defeat for the Bush administration, who strongly opposed his election and worked hard to unite a fractious opposition against him with little success. The White House has said it will withdraw aid from an Ortega government.

With just more than 61 percent of the vote counted, Ortega had 38.6 percent of the ballots, about 8 points ahead of the second-place candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, a Harvard-educated financier and conservative Washington has openly supported.

Now 60 years old and balding, Ortega has maintained he is no longer a Marxist, but more of a pragmatist. He has promised to keep good relations with the United States and chose a former foe as his running mate. He has also vowed to help the poor and ran a positive campaign around the themes of "peace, love and unity."

But he maintains close ties to Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, the leftist president who has become a thorn in side of the United States. Chavez lent the Ortega campaign significant support by sending subsidized oil to Nicaragua and distributing it through Sandinista politicians.

Ortega's victory appeared to be another gain for leftists in Latin America, who, despite recent setbacks in Peru and Mexico, have also persuaded voters to abandon conservative governments in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.

Although the results were preliminary, supporters of Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front party set off fireworks around the city on Monday, and drove around honking horns, shouting victory slogans and waving red and black Sandinista flags. Ortega had yet to make a statement.

Cuba immediately congratulated Ortega. "This is good for the people of Nicaragua and for the integration of Latin America," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told The Associated Press Monday.

Ortega's opponents refused to recognize his victory until all the votes were counted. The United States took a similar stance. The State Department's deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, said Monday that the administration would wait to comment until the Nicaraguan Electoral Commission announced who won. He also said it was too early to comment on procedural problems during the voting, noting that several groups of observers planned to file reports.

Casey said the United States delegation in Nicaragua had remarked on "high turnout and given praise to the Nicaraguan people for their patience and their willingness to show support for this democratic process."

Ortega was one of the leaders of the Sandinista rebels that swept to power in 1979, toppling the Somoza dynasty of rightwing dictators friendly to the United States and setting up an authoritarian leftwing government.

With the cold war still driving United States policy, President Reagan imposed sanctions on the country and financed anti-Sandinista guerrillas, known as contras, in part by secretly selling arms to the revolutionary Islamic government in Iran. It was Ortega who led his Soviet-backed army in a bloody decade-long civil war.

The last time Ortega ran Nicaragua, he seized private assets and redistributed land to poor peasants. Capital fled the country, along with many of its business leaders. He vows a different approach this time.

The advertising campaign against the former rebel leader was vicious, showing images from the civil war, weeping women, guns blaring. His opponents lost no chance to remind people of the economic collapse that followed the fighting and the United States embargo.

Ortega served as an unelected president from 1985 to 1990, before losing in elections to Violet Chamorro. He has struggled to regain power through the ballot box since then, but without success, in 1996 and 2001.

This time, however, a change in the election law and a strong throw-the-bums-out sentiment in the country after campaign financing scandals involving former President Enrique Bolanos helped carry him to victory.

The key to his victory was a change in election rules allowing a candidate to win in the first-round with only 35 percent of the vote, so long as he is 5 points above his next closest opponent. If Ortega had not won on the first round, most political strategists predicted he would not have survived a second round, as the splintered anti-Sandinista vote would have united.

As it was, the anti-Sandinista vote seemed split mostly between Montealegre, with 30.9 percent, and José Rizo, the candidate of the conservative ruling party, who had 22.9 percent, according to the Supreme Electoral Council, the Nicaraguan election authority. Two other candidates, Edmundo Jarquin, a dissident former Sandinista, and Eden Pastora, a former Contra rebel, trailed behind.

Results of a quick count carried out by a local monitoring group, Ethics and Transparency, were tracked with the official results.

"It's been a pretty exact count, we can say that Ortega's triumph is almost sure," said Carlos Tunnerman, a political analyst and former Nicaraguan ambassador to Washington during the early years of the Sandinista government, from 1984 to 1988.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who was in Nicaragua to monitor the election, said the quick count was "among the most definitive I have ever scene." The count is based on a large, and strategically varied sample of votes from urban and rural areas and different social strata, explained Carter and local analysts.

On Sunday night, following the first presentation of results by the election authorities, Montealegre denounced the early closure of some polling places and problems with the delivery of voter identification cards. He said he would not concede defeat until all votes are counted.

Carter agreed that there were minor problems with the voting process, but said he did not think they were significant enough to affect the results.

"The likelihood is that those few anomalies, which exist in every election in the world, will not be substantive enough collectively to change the apparent results of this election," Carter said.

Electoral observers have said the vote was mostly peaceful and orderly, despite long lines and some angry confrontations among voter who claimed polling stations closed before they could vote.

Observers from the Organization of American States said 2 percent of potential voters were not able to cast a ballot, and they estimated turnout around 70 percent, the Associated Press reported.

Since the frontrunner was a cold-war icon for the left, the race generated interest in the United States. Even Oliver North, the former White House aide, visited to speak against Ortega. North was at the heart of a scandal that became known as the Iran-contra affair when it emerged that Washington had secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to arm the contras.

But in recent years, American money has flowed into Nicaragua in the form of investments. The country's has cheap labor, low crime rates and recently joined the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

During his campaign for the current election, Ortega emphasized his goal of peace and reconciliation, choosing bright pink as the color for his campaign and adopting the rhythm of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" for his jingle.

For some, Ortega and the Sandinistas still conjure up memories of the war and tough economic times. Marlon José Sánchez Padilla, 36, who sold oranges on Sunday outside of a polling station in the town of Nindirí, bitterly recalled his two years of military service in the 1980's. "Many people were mutilated," he said. "Now he promises the sky, earth and highways but we don't believe him anymore."

Others, at the polls on Sunday, said it was time to give Ortega another chance. "It seems that Daniel Ortega has asked for pardon," said Ninosca Leets, a housewife who said she fled to the United States during the former Sandinista government. "He's asked for reconciliation. He's asked for a change, and I think he should be given the opportunity."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Oaxaca March : Nov. 5

Sixth Megamarch Organized by APPO Underway in Oaxaca

By Nancy Davies,
Posted on Sun Nov 5th, 2006 at 12:40:43 PM EST

During the night helicopters brought military troops
into the city. According to "La Doctora," impeccably
calm and intelligent as ever on Radio Universidad, the
people must remain non-violent. She mentioned Mahatma
Ghandi and to avoid the provocations the military and
PRI will attempt. The people must remain organized and
dignified, she said.

This morning a student from the Technological Institute
in front of Radio Universidad was shot in the chest.
His name is Marcos Manuel Sanchez Martinez. He is still
alive and receiving medical care. La Doctora says that
the shooters are establishing an early morning pattern
of attacks.

Meanwhile, supporters are on the road toward Oaxaca for
the march which was scheduled to convene at 10:00 AM in
front of the monument in the Viguera neighborhood.
About 700 people left Mexico DF to come here, according
to La Jornada. They were stopped by a military
roadblock (reten), made to get off the bus, searched
which the bus was also searched, but then permitted to
continue. Last night other busloads were sited as well,
coming from Nochitzlan and other main roads.

Fox is not completely impeding free transit in the
nation or in the state of Oaxaca, and that's a small
victory similar to the Federal Preventive Police's
failed invasion of the autonomous university. Symbolic
rules still hold.

The Sixth Megamarch will be another face-off between
the peoples and the government forces. Attention must
be paid.