Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Guatemalan elections

Francisco Goldman on Guatemalan Elections

New Evidence Suggests Guatemalan Presidential Candidate
Played Role in 1998 Murder of Human Rights Activist
Bishop Juan Gerard

Democracy Now
Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

General Otto Perez Molina is slightly trailing in polls
ahead of Sunday's run-off election in Guatemala. The
acclaimed Guatemalan novelist Francisco Goldman joins
us to talk new evidence linking Gen. Perez Molina to
the 1998 murder of a beloved Guatemalan human rights
activist. Goldman writes about the case in his first
book of non-fiction, "The Art of Political Murder: Who
Killed the Bishop?" [includes rush transcript]

In Guatemala, millions of voters will head to the polls
on Sunday for the second round of general elections to
pick a new president. The runoff vote pits three-time
center-left candidate Álvaro Colom against hard-line
former army general, Otto Pérez Molina.

General Perez Molina, the ex-head of army intelligence,
has promised to to expand the police force by half and
to use the military to fight crime. He closed out his
campaign on Monday in the city of Villa Nueva.

General Perez Molina commanded troops in one of
Guatemala's most violent areas and has been implicated
in a number of political crimes. Now, new evidence
suggests Perez Molina may have orchestrated the 1998
murder of beloved Guatemalan human rights activist,
Bishop Juan Gerardi. Known in Guatemala as "The Crime
of the Century," Gerardi was bludgeoned to death near
his home in Guatemala City on April 26th, 1998. Two
days earlier, he had released a four-volume report that
found the Guatemalan Army primarily responsible for the
deaths and disappearances of as many as 200,000
civilians over four decades.

Gerardi's murder set off global repercussions in
political and human rights circles. The case was one of
the most sensational and controversial in Latin
America's history. Three army officers and a priest
were ultimately convicted of the crime.

Writer Francisco Goldman has spent the last seven years
investigating the case. In his latest book, "The Art of
Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?" Goldman
provides a detailed account of Gerardi's murder and an
exhaustive investigation into was was responsible.
Francisco Goldman is an acclaimed American Guatemalan
novelist. He is the author of three novels, including
"The Long Night of White Chickens." "The Art of
Political Murder" is his first non-fiction book. He
joins me today in the firehouse studio.

* Francisco Goldman. Acclaimed American-Guatemalan
novelist. He is the author of three novels, including
"The Long Night of White Chickens." His latest book is
his first nonfiction work. It's called "The Art of
Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?"


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AMY GOODMAN: In Guatemala, millions of voters head to
the polls on Sunday for the second round of general
elections to pick a new president. The runoff vote pits
three-time center-left candidate Alvaro Colom against
hard-line former army general Otto Perez Molina.

General Perez Molina, the ex-head of army intelligence,
has promised to expand the police force by half and to
use the military to fight crime. He closed out his
campaign on Monday in the city of Villa Nueva.

GEN. OTTO PEREZ MOLINA: [translated] We want a
Guatemala with justice, not inequality. I tell you, I
am convinced and have no doubt that there will be a
change on November 4th, with a strong hand, mind and
heart, with "Cayo" Castillo and Otto Perez, the best

AMY GOODMAN: General Perez Molina commanded troops in
one of Guatemala's most violent areas, has been
implicated in a number of political crimes. Now, new
evidence suggests that he may have orchestrated the
1998 murder of the beloved Guatemalan human rights
activist, Bishop Juan Gerardi.

Known in Guatemala as "the Crime of the Century,"
Bishop Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in his garage in
Guatemala City, April 26, 1998. Two days earlier, he
had released a four-volume report that found the
Guatemalan army primarily responsible for the
overwhelming number of deaths and disappearances of as
many as 200,000 civilians over four decades.

Gerardi's murder set off global repercussions in
political and human rights circles. The case was one of
the most sensational and controversial in Latin
America's history. Three army officers and a priest
were ultimately convicted of the crime.

We're now joined by author Francisco Goldman, who has
spent the last seven years investigating the case. His
book is called The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed
the Bishop? Goldman provides a detailed account of
Gerardi's murder and an exhaustive investigation into
who was responsible. Francisco Goldman is an acclaimed
Guatemalan American novelist. He is the author of three
novels. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: Thank you, Amy. It's a pleasure to
be here.

AMY GOODMAN: This is nonfiction, this one, your latest

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: This is nonfiction, but written
almost in the form of a novel. It's a narrative
chronicle of a nine-year legal case, really.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a major charge you are making on
this eve of the Guatemalan election.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: It's a charge that I'm repeating,
because I was led to it by two of the major sources for
me throughout the book. It's funny, because it's
actually only a few pages of the book where this charge
emerges, when the key -- first the key witness in the
case, apparently a park vagrant, who was situated
outside the parish house where the murder took place
the night of the murder, but who was actually an army
intelligence agent who had been planted there and, in
fact, had a role in the murder.

AMY GOODMAN: The vagrant?

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: The vagrant, Ruben Chanax, who years
later, he was a key witness when the case finally went
to trial. And I tracked him down when he was living in
Mexico City as a semi-protected witness and working in
a taco stand. And in the course of our conversations,
when we went over the case time and time again, every
detail of the case, it emerged that at the crime scene
-- you know, we know that the crime was being monitored
by three military officers who were sort of overseeing
events from a little store nearby the church that
night. He had, in the legal case, identified one,
Colonel Lima Estrada, one of the men who eventually was
imprisoned, but he repressed the names of two, for his
own reasons, including staying alive. And he told me
that one of those men was General Otto Perez Molina.

Now, just him saying that wasn't really enough; I
needed obviously confirmation. The confirmation for me
came from the most important source I had, a man named
Rafael Guillamon, a former Spanish intelligence agent
who headed the UN mission's internal investigation into
the Gerardi murder. And when he interrogated this
Chanax, this vagrant, two days after the murder, he
first heard it from him. Now, this investigation was
conducted for the UN's internal knowledge, not to share
with prosecutors, and so it stayed secret all these
years. And then he had even more proof.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the significance of Bishop Gerardi
and the significance of the report that he released.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: When the '96 peace accords, which
ended the thirty-six-year war, were signed between --
the UN-sponsored accords between the Guatemalan
guerrillas, who were in a quiescent role, and the
victorious Guatemalan army, the army was able to
dictate, among other things, a blanket amnesty for all
human rights crimes that had occurred during that war,
in which 200,000 civilians were slaughtered. It also
allowed for a UN sort of truth commission that would be
allowed to look into the past, but wouldn't be able to
name names, name military units who were responsible,
and so forth.

And Bishop Gerardi thought that this kind of covering-
up of the truth was not going to be healthy or good for
Guatemala, and he sponsored his own -- the Catholic
Church, through the Archdiocese Office of Human Rights,
sponsored their own human rights report. And as the
Church, they were the only organization in the country,
through the parishes, that could reach into every
community. And he trained 700, you know, pretty humble
people, people from local churches, to go out into
these communities, into these highland villages that
were so shielded off by speaking, you know, sixteen
different Mayan languages and traumatized by years of
violence, massacres. There is such a thick taboo
against speaking out and such fear of outsiders, but
the Church, they're not seen as outsiders. So they went
in there for years and collected testimonies.

And on April 24th, two days before his death, he
released the most unprecedented, extraordinary four-
volume report, in which he managed to identify, for
example, 400-plus of the 600 massacres we now know
occurred in the war. He managed to list -- that's the
whole fourth volume -- 53,000 of the dead by name, of
the 200,000 people we know that died. And he found the
army responsible of 80% of the crimes, the guerrillas
only 5%. He made it -- he did name names and military
units and made it clear that if the amnesty could ever
be breached, he would make this documentation available
to prosecutors and to families seeking justice. Now,
this was an unbelievable impertinence. When the army
had signed the peace accords, they had never expected
to have to put up with something like this. And so,
they obviously decided they had to do something.

Now, the real question, why it's the art of political
murder, is the question everybody asks, is why do they
kill him two days after the report comes out, not, say,
days before? And the answer to that, right, gets to the
whole institution of impunity in Guatemala. When you
know you don't have to face justice, when you've never
faced justice before, that gives you sort of, you know,
the equivalent of what Virginia Woolf said to a fiction
writer was "a room of one's own," you know, that
freedom of imagination to dream up an extraordinary

And what this crime was, was pure theater. They rigged
up a theatrical event that involved a man with no shirt
stepping out of the garage after Bishop Gerardi had
been murdered; the vagrant planted there to see him,
who had probably taken part in the murder; immediately,
in all different sophisticated ways, rumors coming out
that it had been a homosexual crime of passion, which
resulted --

AMY GOODMAN: By a priest.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: By a priest. A corrupt prosecutor,
corrupt judges, corrupt media, everybody contributing
to this farce. And the story of the book is how this
was -- what should have been, for the government, a
slam-dunk case to pin the whole case on this poor,
pathetic priest who shared Bishop Gerardi's parish
house. You know, they claim that he had sicked his dog,
and they claim they found signs of dog bites in Bishop
Gerardi's skull, and it was ridiculous.

But in Guatemala, this kind of theatrical crime would
ordinarily succeed, and would have if not for the
efforts really of the young people portrayed in this
book, young secular people in their twenties within the
Church, who formed their own investigative unit, named
themselves "the untouchables." And it's just
extraordinary. If it hadn't been for the efforts of
these four young guys and the small team of lawyers at
the Church, who, through their own detective work,
brought in the first important witnesses in the case
and miraculously succeeded in derailing this phony

And then, after that, finally -- this is a case that
saw more than ten people related to the case murdered,
two prosecutors chased into exile, judges chased into
exile, countless witnesses in exile. But finally,
through the most extraordinary bravery of a handful of
people, the convictions managed to go through. There
was a historic trial. It was the first time Guatemalan
military officers had ever been found guilty of taking
part in a state-sponsored politically motivated

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, General Otto Perez Molina is
running for president.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: He's running for president, and when
these accusations emerged in the press, because this is
just a few paragraphs, but back in June a Guatemalan
newspaper ran them. And he immediately began to get
himself in trouble with all kinds of, well, lies,
right? First, he said I had written my book because I
was in the pay of another politician. Later he accused
me of being part of a narco campaign of defamation and
political assassinations directed against him.

Then he said -- for instance, he tried to say, "I have
no knowledge." You know, when he responded to what had
appeared in the paper, he said, "I don't know Captain
Lima," one of the imprisoned military men. Well, we
knew from the UN that he and Captain Lima were
constantly having cell phone calls when Lima was in
prison. And the funny thing is, people in Guatemala
immediately started to email the newspaper, giving
details of the thirty-year relationship between Captain
Lima and Perez Molina. So why did he lie about this?

And even more importantly, the UN mission investigator
told me that -- because Perez Molina claimed that he
was in Washington, D.C. the week the murder happened
and that he had a passport that showed this. But the UN
investigator told me, pay no attention to his
passports. He is a military intelligence person. He
uses multiple passports, and we know that three nights
after the murder, he had dinner -- Perez Molina had
dinner with the UN mission chief, Jean Arnault,, who
wanted to sound him out about his theories about the
murder, because he's an intelligence chief. And he
thought this would never come out. And he thought he
had an alibi. But then, even after this came out, a
Guatemalan paper went and investigated, and they found
that he had seven passports registered in his name,
confirming the UN's skepticism about his claims, and so
forth. And since then, since these kinds of allegations
came out, he has ducked his last three debates with his
opponent, because they think he's afraid of answering
questions about this case and other crimes, and his
poll numbers have started to dip.

And just yesterday -- this is very important -- just
yesterday, it came out and broke, and it's already been
picked up by international wire services, two reporters
from El Periodico, the same newspaper, have discovered
that Perez Molina's campaign has links to narcos. And
they wanted to publish this information, and they
immediately began to get death threats, and the paper
was under a lot of pressure. And they've had to go to
the Office of Human Rights basically to ask for help
and protection, and want to get this story out. So this
just broke yesterday.

AMY GOODMAN: When you say "narcos," you mean…?

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: The narco cartels, because what's at
stake here, right -- it's important for people to
understand, what's amazing about this case is the
bridge between 1980s violence and twenty-first century

AMY GOODMAN: Over fifty deaths of political activists
and candidates leading up to this election on Sunday.


AMY GOODMAN: We have fifteen seconds.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: OK. Well, military intelligence used
to fight guerillas. Right now, with political power,
it's all about organized crime, and that's what they're
trying to hold onto. And that's the faction, that's the
kind of power that General Perez Molina is trying to

AMY GOODMAN: Francisco Goldman's book is called The Art
of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? I want to
thank you very much for being with us.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mercenaries on the border

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Blackwater's run for the border

The notorious security contractor has plans for a military-style complex near the U.S.-Mexico border. Critics worry the firm's "mercenary soldiers" could join the U.S. Border Patrol.
By Eilene Zimmerman

Oct. 23, 2007 | There are signs that Blackwater USA, the private security firm that came under intense scrutiny after its employees killed 17 civilians in Iraq in September, is positioning itself for direct involvement in U.S. border security. The company is poised to construct a major new training facility in California, just eight miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. While contracts for U.S. war efforts overseas may no longer be a growth industry for the company, Blackwater executives have lobbied the U.S. government since at least 2005 to help train and even deploy manpower for patrolling America's borders.

Blackwater is planning to build an 824-acre military-style training complex in Potrero, Calif., a rural hamlet 45 miles east of San Diego. The company's proposal, which was approved last December by the Potrero Community Planning Group and has drawn protest from within the Potrero community, will turn a former chicken ranch into "Blackwater West," the company's second-largest facility in the country. It will include a multitude of weapons firing ranges, a tactical driving track, a helipad, a 33,000-square-foot urban simulation training area, an armory for storing guns and ammunition, and dorms and classrooms. And it will be located in the heart one of the most active regions in the United States for illegal border crossings.

While some residents of Potrero have welcomed the plan, others have raised fears about encroachment on protected lands and what they see as an intimidating force of mercenaries coming into their backyard. The specter of Blackwater West and the rising interest in privatizing border security have also alarmed Democratic Rep. Bob Filner, whose congressional district includes Potrero. Filner says he believes it's a good possibility that Blackwater is positioning itself for border security contracts and is opposed to the new complex. "You have to be very wary of mercenary soldiers in a democracy, which is more fragile than people think," Rep. Filner told Salon. "You don't want armies around who will sell out to the highest bidder. We already have vigilantes on the border, the Minutemen, and this would just add to [the problem]," Filner said, referring to the Minuteman Project, a conservative group that has organized civilian posses to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in the past. Filner is backing legislation to block establishment of what he calls "mercenary training centers" anywhere in the U.S. outside of military bases. "The border is a sensitive area," he said, "and if Blackwater operates the way they do in Iraq -- shoot first and ask questions later -- my constituents are at risk."

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied there are any specific plans to work directly with Blackwater. And Blackwater officials say the complex would be used only for training active-duty military and law enforcement officials, work for which the company has contracted with the U.S. government.

But statements and lobbying activity by Blackwater officials, and the location for the new complex, strongly suggest plans to get involved in border security, with potential contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, Blackwater enjoys support from powerful Republican congressmen who advocate hard-line border policies, including calls for deploying private agents to beef up the ranks of the U.S. Border Patrol. Lawmakers supporting Blackwater include California Rep. and presidential candidate Duncan Hunter -- who met last year with company officials seeking his advice on the proposal for Blackwater West -- and Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, who is sponsoring a bill to allow private contractors such as Blackwater to help secure U.S. borders.

When questioned at a public hearing with the Potrero planning group on Sept. 13 about Blackwater West, Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater spokesman, said, "I don't think there's anyone in this room who wouldn't like to see the border tightened up." Blackwater currently had no contracts to help with border security, Bonfiglio said, but he emphasized that "we would entertain any approach from our government to help secure either border, absolutely." Bonfiglio was responding to questions from Raymond Lutz, a local organizer who opposes the new complex. (Lutz recorded the exchange and posted video of it on Oct. 12 at Lutz also asked Bonfiglio if Blackwater West would be used as a base for deployment of Border Patrol agents. "Actually, we've offered it up as a substation to Border Patrol and U.S. Customs right now," Bonfiglio replied. "We'd love to see them there."

Ramon Rivera, a spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, denied Bonfiglio's claim that the agency is entertaining an offer to use Blackwater West as a substation. "I think that's just Blackwater trying to sell themselves," Rivera said.

In fact, Blackwater has been selling itself for direct involvement in border security at least since May 2005, when the company's then president, Gary Jackson, testified before a House subcommittee. Jackson's testimony focused on Blackwater's helping to train U.S. Border Patrol agents and included discussion of contracts theoretically worth $80 million to $200 million, for thousands of personnel. Asked by one lawmaker if his company saw a market opportunity in border security, Jackson replied: "I can put as many men together as you need, trained and on the borders."

The company has turned to powerful allies on Capitol Hill for support, including Hunter, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a longtime proponent of tougher border security. Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter, confirmed to Salon that Blackwater officials sought guidance from Hunter on getting Blackwater West approved for Potrero. Hunter met with Blackwater officials in May 2006, at which time Hunter recommended the firm contact Dianne Jacob, the county supervisor responsible for Potrero and one of five supervisors who would vote on countywide approval for Blackwater West. Blackwater officials then met with Jacob in May, and in June the company submitted its proposal to the county, where it now must go through an approval process.

Rep. Filner says Potrero residents have complained to him that Hunter also brought pressure locally for Blackwater West. "People in the area told me he called the landowner [of the proposed site] to urge him to sell [to Blackwater]. I don't know that he did, but it wouldn't surprise me," says Filner. "That's what people in the area are saying." (Hunter has ties to Potrero, which used to be part of his congressional district; after a redestricting in 2001, Potrero became part of Filner's district, which borders Hunter's district.)

Spokesman Kasper denied that Hunter called the landowner, whose identity remains unclear. But Kasper also said that Hunter "supports Blackwater and other private security contractors in Iraq, and he supports the training facility in Potrero."

One specific concern Potrero residents have raised with relation to Blackwater West is the high risk of wildfires in their part of the county -- a danger on display the last two days as Potrero has been ravaged by fire along with other parts of Southern California. Blackwater has in fact pushed as a selling point that the complex would be a "defensible location" during wildfires. But opponents, including Jan Hedlun, the only member of the Potrero Planning Group opposed to Blackwater West, foresee danger rather than a safe haven. As Hedlun wrote in a recent editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "residents state they would not flee to a box canyon with one access point and an armory filled with ammunition and/or explosives."

Ever since illegal immigration became a top issue for the Bush administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, there have been growing calls for the U.S. to bring private security companies into border enforcement. In September 2006, the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington released a policy paper titled "Better, Faster, and Cheaper Border Security," which urged Congress and the president to beef up forces as fast as possible. "In particular," the report said, "private contractors could play an important role in recruiting and training Border Patrol agents and providing personnel to secure the border." Late last month, one of the report's authors hosted a symposium in Washington for an updated discussion on the topic, for which Rep. Rogers -- a proponent of both Blackwater and DynCorp International, another private security contractor with personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan -- was the keynote speaker.

On June 19 of this year, during a House subcommittee meeting titled "Ensuring We Have Well-Trained Boots on the Ground at the Border," Rep. Christopher Carney, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, acknowledged "it's no secret that CPB [Customs and Border Protection] as a whole lacks the manpower to fulfill its crucial mission." Robert B. Rosenkranz, president of the government services division of DynCorp, presented a plan for putting 1,000 DynCorp employees at the border in 13 months, at a cost of $197 million.

In May 2006, the Bush administration had called for a sharp increase in manpower, at least with the existing federal force. President Bush then signed a bill into law on Oct. 4, 2006, to boost the number of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents on the ground by nearly 50 percent, from approximately 12,300 to approximately 18,300, by the end of 2008.

But even such an ambitious increase would do little to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, says T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents most U.S. Border Patrol agents. Bonner, himself a field agent in east San Diego County, told the House subcommittee in June, "Realistically, there is no magic number of Border Patrol agents required to secure our borders and even if there were, it would certainly be much higher than the 18,000 proposed by the administration."

Scott Borgerson, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in homeland security, says it makes sense that U.S. companies would try to position themselves to fill gaps in national security with lucrative private-sector solutions. "If I was running a company doing private security, it's definitely what I would do," he says of Blackwater's plan to locate near the border.

In an Oct. 15 article in the Wall Street Journal, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince said that the company now sees the market diminishing for the kind of security work its employees have done in Iraq. He said that going forward the company's focus "is going to be more of a full spectrum," ranging from delivering humanitarian aid to responding to natural disasters. But priorities for the Bush administration, including immigration and border security, could also figure into Blackwater's plans -- as Salon reported recently, the company's skyrocketing revenues during Bush's presidency are accompanied by the firm's close ties with influential Republicans and top Bush officials.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said that the notion of Blackwater vying for lucrative border security contracts is "merely speculation," and noted that the location for Blackwater West is close to San Diego's military bases, a major training market for the company. "But hypothetically," Tyrrell added, "if the government came to us and needed assistance with border security, we'd be honored."

Borgerson says there is a role for private contractors in helping keep the United States safe. "But certain jobs belong to trained U.S. government officials -- men and women in uniform who have a flag on their sleeves," says Borgerson, who was a Coast Guard officer for 10 years. "You recite an oath that says you will defend -- not Congress, not the president, not even the people -- but the Constitution. You don't sign that oath when you go to work for Blackwater."

Bonner, of the U.S. Border Patrol, remains skeptical about Blackwater getting involved, and he says others in the upper ranks of the Border Patrol are opposed to private contractors working alongside them. He sees potential problems with both training and patrolling. The much higher pay likely offered to private agents, for example, would threaten an already difficult-to-retain federal force. "It will entice people to jump over to the other side," he says, "especially if they don't have a long-term career in mind." Bonner also says it is crucial to have a single training curriculum, and a single chain of command, to help ensure effective and lawful operations. "This is a bad idea from so many perspectives," he says of potentially privatizing the force.

The issue may be linked to broader problems the U.S. is currently facing with national security. "If we weren't allocating a tremendous amount of our resources in Iraq, we wouldn't have to outsource to companies like Blackwater," Borgerson says. While securing the U.S. borders is an important priority, he adds, "I feel we shouldn't outsource our sovereignty."

-- By Eilene Zimmerman


Mexican Senator Bashes Bush Cuba policy

Mexico Senator Bashes US Cuba Bully
Mexico, Oct 24 (Prensa Latina) Mexican senator Maria de los Angeles Moreno said Wednesday all nations must be opposed to the new anti-Cuban measures announced by US President George W. Bush.

The legislator, from the "Partido Revolucionario Institucional," told Prensa Latina that this is a replay of US arbitrariness and all countries must oppose the blockade against Cuba, which distorts international law.

"No country can impose unilateral sanctions to damage a people and I think the UN must ratify its position against a blockade responsible for enormous suffering of Cubans," stated Moreno.

"That position damages the UN, an organization that needs an in-depth revision to foster peace and international respect, and when a government acts against its voting it is infringing it on other member countries," she said.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Anti Islam hate speech

Barbara Ehrenreich

I've never been able to explain Halloween to the kids, with its odd thematic confluence of pumpkins, candy and death. But Halloween is a piece of pumpkin cake compared to Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which commences today. In this special week, organized by conservative pundit David Horowitz, we have a veritable witches' brew of Cheney-style anti-jihadism mixed in with old-fashioned, right-wing anti-feminism and a sour dash of anti-Semitism.

A major purpose of this week is to wake up academic women to the threat posed by militant jihadism. According to the Week's website, feminists and particularly the women's studies professors among them, have developed a masochistic fondness for Islamic fundamentalists. Hence, as anti-Islamo-Fascist speakers fan out to the nation's campuses this week, students are urged to stage "sit-ins in Women's Studies Departments and campus Women's Centers to protest their silence about the oppression of women in Islam."

Leaving aside the obvious quibbles about feminist pro-jihadism and the term "Islamo-Fascism," which seems largely designed to give jihadism a nice familiar World War II ring, the klaxons didn't go off for me until I skimmed down the list of Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week speakers and found, incredibly enough, Ann Coulter, whom I last caught on TV pining for the repeal of women's suffrage. "If we took away women's right to vote," she said wistfully, "We'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream; it's a personal fantasy of mine."

Coulter is not the only speaker on the list who may have a credibility problem when it comes to opposing oppression of women in Islam or anywhere else. Another participant in the week's events is former Senator Rick Santorum, whose book, It Takes a Family blamed "radical feminism" for pushing women into the workforce and thus destroying the American family. A 2005 column on that book in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, began with: "Women of America, I hope you look good in a burqa. If Senator Rick Santorum,R-PA, has his way, we will all be wearing the burqas discarded by our recently liberated sisters in Afghanistan..." (This was the before the Taliban re-emerged.)

Not quite in the burqa-promoting league, but close, is another official speaker for the week, Christina Hoff Sommers, who has made her name attacking feminism for exaggerating the problem of domestic violence and eliminating opportunities for boys. These are the people who are going to save us from purdah?

Another disagreeable feature of jihadism--anti-Semitism--is also represented on the list of speakers for Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week, again by the multi-faceted Coulter. Just last week on CNBC, she referred to America as a "Christian nation." Asked where this left the Jews (not to mention the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans and atheists), she said they could be "perfected" by converting to Christianity.

You might imagine that this view of Jews as "imperfect" would bother Horowitz, who is famously alert to any hint of anti-Semitism on the left. But no, he defends Coulter, writing that "If you don't accompany this belief by burning Jews who refuse to become perfected at the stake why would any Jew have a problem?" Sure, David and if that's the threshold for intolerance, Osama bin Laden could probably win an award for humanitarianism.

Maybe none of this should be surprising. When Mel Gibson, who is not known to be a member of the Hollywood left, unleashed a drunken anti-Semitic tirade on his arresting officers, Horowitz also rose to his defense, arguing that ensuing outrage reflected a "hatred"--not of anti-Semites but of Christians.

As for the anti-feminism of Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week: This fits in neatly with the thesis of Susan Faludi's brilliant new book, The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America. She shows that, in the wake of an attack by the ultra-misogynist Al Qaeda, Americans perversely engaged in an anti-feminist campaign of their own, calling for an immediate restoration of traditional gender roles. Coulter was part of that backlash, opining in 2002 that "feminists hate guns because guns remind them of men."

Before you put on your costumes to celebrate Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week, let me set the record straight. American feminists do not condone, defend, or ignore jihadist misogyny. In fact, we were warning about it well before Washington turned against the Taliban and have been consistently appalled by the gender dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

But if the facts don't fit in with Islamo-Fascist Awareness, they have to go. For example, in a May '07 column in The Weekly Standard Christina Hoff Sommers listed me as one of the "feckless" feminists who refuse "to pass judgment on non-Western cultures." What? If Sommers had even done ten minutes of research she would have noticed, among other things, a column I wrote in the New York Times in 2004 stating that Islamic fundamentalism aims to push one-half of the Muslim world--the female half--"down to a status only slightly above that of domestic animals."

Yes, feminists tend to hate war and sometimes even guns and this may be why Horowitz and company hate us. They should know, though, that we especially hate a war that seems calculated to inflame Islamic fundamentalism worldwide. If many Muslim women around the world willingly don head scarves today, it's in part because our war in Iraq has, tragically, pushed them to value religious solidarity above their feminist instincts.

Or maybe I'm missing the point of Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week. Maybe it's really an effort to show that our own American anti-feminists (and anti-Semites) are just as nasty as the ones on the other side. If so, good job, guys! No need to continue with the trick-or-treating, you've already made your point.

Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed (Owl), is the winner of the 2004 Puffin/Nation Prize.
The hate speech being promoted in Sacramento goes far beyond the above description.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bank of the South created.

Bank of the South sets launch date on Nov. 3 in Venezuela

The Associated Press
Monday, October 8, 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil: The Bank of the South — once just a gleam in the eye of South American leaders — now has a due date.

Finance Ministers from seven nations announced Monday that the multinational funding institute, which will operate similarly to the Inter-American Development Bank, will be founded Nov. 3 in Caracas, Venezuela.

The bank is the brainchild of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been promoting it as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund, which he blames for perpetuating poverty and contributing to inflation in Latin America.

"We can now say that the Bank of the South is about to become reality," Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. "It will finance integration and will be open to all of South America's 12 countries."

"There is still important work to be concluded," Mantega said, adding that the countries involved have yet to determine details such as the bank's financial structure and how much each nation will contribute.

Chavez has touted the bank as a counterweight to U.S. influence and a way for the region to chart its own economic course.

But Venezuelan Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas said Monday that "the bank is not against anything or anyone. It is in favor of the people of South America."

"This is not a bank of one country or of one president," he added.

The bank will lend for development projects at interest rates similar to those charged by other multilateral institutions, Mantega said.

He added that the finance ministers of each member nation will sit on the bank's administrative council and that each country will have one vote.

The launch date was agreed to during a daylong meeting between the finance ministers of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Copyright © 2007 The International Herald Tribune |

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Latino Agenda in elections

The Latino Agenda for the 2008 Election
By Roberto Lovato, The Nation
Posted on October 15, 2007, Printed on October 17, 2007

Karen Linares's face contorted as she stared at the thick, rusted pipe and the bottle of brown water before her. The reddish-brown props used by an environmental panelist speaking about water politics at the second annual National Latino Congreso reminded Linares of water she's seen in the numerous places she's called home.

"The LA river water running by my house is full of filth," said the 22-year-old Salvadoran-Chicana delegate to the five-day convergence of left-leaning Latinos held this past week in her hometown. "I saw the same brown water in El Salvador. In Tijuana you see the sewage trickling down the dirt roads," she said. Asked what, if any, connection existed between the water she saw in her neighborhood and the water in her parents' homelands, Linares answered, "Clear water runs upward where the money runs. Brown water runs down where poor brown people are."

Asked how to resolve the water problems of the more than 588 million Latinos in the hemisphere, Linares responded by drawing from the deep well of the two-pronged -- electoral and mass-based organizing--Latin American political culture now rooting itself in the United States: "I'm going to organize for the [California water bond] initiative. I also want to organize to help our people in the South."

Listening to Linares, one hears echoes of the global citizenship that is thundering with increasing frequency from Canada to Patagonia. Flowing into and through Latino and Latin American political gatherings like the Congreso is a new Latino agenda, one that transcends the more nation-state-based "ethnic" politics of a previous era. Among the many resolutions passed by Linares and 1,500 other delegates were measures relating to a range of local and hemispheric issues: opposition to the Iraq war -- the top concern for Latinos, according to polls; overturning Bush Administration travel restrictions to Cuba; opposition to the expansion of NAFTA or CAFTA; and support for several environmental initiatives.

Central to the new Latino agenda is the development of an electoral strategy to complement to the grassroots efforts for the 2008 presidential election, regarded by many to be the most important Latino vote in US history.

Congreso organizers like Antonio Gonzales, executive director of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, know that Democratic presidential candidates have won 248 or more electoral college votes in the last four presidential elections. He knows that this translates into Latinos wielding significant influence because most of them live in swing states.

If trends first seen in 2006 continue, he says, the Democrats can secure the 277 votes they need to win the presidency next year by simply winning Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, all sites of major Latino voting blocks. By simply adding Florida to the historic Democratic core, they get 275 votes.

To illustrate the new Latino politics, Gonzales points me back to what Linares and growing numbers of Latinos are calling "water justice." He cited Latino support last year for California's Proposition 86, a successful ballot initiative that increased funding for water and park projects.

"That proposition would not have passed without the 85 percent Latino support for it. They were decisive in its success," he told me. "This was also the first-ever environmental bond initiative that lost white votes."

Some of these same white voters were among the majority who supported Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative that sought to deny health and education services to the children of the undocumented and which also launched the movement that inspired current immigrant-rights activism.

Immigration has been and continues to be at the heart of Latino politics. Congreso co-convener Oscar Chacon, leader of the Chicago-based National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, an immigrant-led network of more than eighty organizations, links local immigration to global trade -- only he views immigration through a much wider lens than that of the white voters who supported Proposition 187.

"NAFTA has been the main cause for more than 1.3 million Mexican campesinos to lose their livelihoods. Not surprisingly, the number of Mexicans who have emigrated to the United States rose 60 percent in the first six years after NAFTA," said Chacon, adding, "We can only resolve immigration issues by addressing the bigger question of what is forcing so many people to emigrate in the first place. The first step is to stop expanding the same agricultural rules of NAFTA to Peru and other Latin American nations."

Hemispheric concerns like Chacon's will enter US voting booths in the upcoming elections. Poll after poll indicate that Latino voters, especially the immigrant voters who now make up half of all Latino votes and who are the fastest-growing voter segment, harbor profound concerns about the increased workplace raids, racial profiling, lack of immigration reform and other signs of ill-treatment of immigrants. Though most polls tell us that, like most (North) Americans, Latinos' number-one political issue is the Iraq war, a Gallup poll conducted in July indicated that one-third of Latinos named immigration as their number-one issue.

Republican attacks on immigrants have helped galvanize the marching and voting army that may well realize the GOP's worse fears. Most of the attendees to the Congreso were among the millions chanting a time-honored Latin American slogan, Ahorra marchamos, manana votamos --Today we march, tomorrow we vote.

Roberto Lovato, a frequent Nation contributor, is a New York-based writer with New America Media.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vernon Bellecourt dies

He was a good, honest, and courageous man. H
AIM leader and veteran activist dies at age 75

He fell ill after a trip to Venezuela four weeks ago, said his brother Clyde, and had been on a respirator until Saturday.

By Steve Karnowski, Associated Press

Last update: October 14, 2007 – 12:04 AM
Vernon Bellecourt, a longtime leader of the American Indian Movement, died Saturday. He was 75.

Bellecourt died at Abbott Northwestern Hospital of complications of pneumonia, said his brother, Clyde Bellecourt, a founder of the group.

Clyde Bellecourt said his brother had been in Venezuela about four weeks ago to meet with President Hugo Chavez to discuss Chavez's program for providing heating assistance to American Indian tribes. He fell ill around the time of his return.

His condition continued to deteriorate, and he was put on a respirator a week ago. He died within a minute after being disconnected Saturday, his brother said

Vernon Bellecourt -- whose Ojibwe name WaBun-Inini means Man of Dawn -- was a member of Minnesota's White Earth Band and was an international spokesman for the AIM Grand Governing Council based in Minneapolis. Clyde Bellecourt helped found AIM as a militant group in 1968, and Vernon Bellecourt soon became involved as well, including in its 1973 occupation of the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

In recent years, Bellecourt was active in the fight against American Indian nicknames for sports teams as president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media. He was arrested in Cleveland during the 1997 World Series and again in 1998 during protests against the Cleveland Indians' mascot, Chief Wahoo. The first time, the charges were dropped. He was never charged in the second case.

"He was willing to put his butt on the line to draw attention to racism in sports," his brother said.

Bellecourt was involved as a negotiator in AIM's 1972 occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington as part of the Trail of Broken Treaties caravan.

He was present only briefly during the 71-day Wounded Knee standoff with federal agents, Clyde Bellecourt said. He stayed mostly on the outside to serve as a spokesman and fundraiser. After Wounded Knee, Vernon Bellecourt became a leader of AIM's work abroad, meeting with presidents such as Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, as well as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

But after Wounded Knee, AIM also became weakened by arrests and internal strife and a backlash against violence blamed on it. One of its founders, Russell Means, became a bitter opponent of the Bellecourts and a leader of a rival AIM group.

Vernon Bellecourt was active in the campaign to free Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout in 1975 on the Pine Ridge reservation.

A wake was scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday at All Nations Church in Minneapolis and on Tuesday night at the Circle of Life School in White Earth in northwestern Minnesota, with funeral services planned for Wednesday.

© 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

Check out our Hunterbear social justice website:
[The site is dedicated to our one-half Bobcat, Cloudy Gray:

Monday, October 15, 2007


Putting people first on the migration agenda: Socialist International meeting in Manila

Members of the Socialist International active in the SI Committee on Migrations, together with representatives from a broad range of international, regional and non-governmental organisations working on migration, discussed key issues at the centre of the global debate on this subject at a meeting of the Committee on 21-22 September. The meeting was specially convened in Manila, the capital of a country with one of the largest number of migrant workers abroad.

Continuing the Committee's discussions on migration from different regional perspectives, in preparation for a report to be presented to the next SI Congress, participants examined from the view of the Asia-Pacific region an agenda which focused on Migration and Development, The Impact of Female Migration, Irregular Labour Migration in a Globalised Economy, and Migration Issues on the International Agenda.

Chaired by Amalia Garcia, Governor of the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, (PRD), and Chair of the Committee, the meeting was opened by the SI Secretary General Luis Ayala with a presentation of the work of the International on this important question, followed by an address by the Chair on the issues on the agenda and by opening remarks on behalf of the hosts by Norberto Gonzales, Leader of the PDSP and Secretary for National Security, and by Loretta Rosales from the leadership of the Akbayan Party.

Taking part in the debates alongside the SI members, were representatives from the International Organisation for Migration, IOM; the International Trade Union Confederation ‹ Asia Pacific, ITUC-AP; the Migrant Forum in Asia ; the Asian Migrant Centre ; the Center for Migrant Advocacy ; the Athika Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative ; the Development for Women Network, DAWN ; the Scalabrini Migration Centre ; the Kanlungan Centre Foundation ‹ Centre for Migrant Workers ; the Philippine Migration Research Network, PMRN ; the Filipino Domestic Workers' Union, FDWU ; the KAKAMMPI Association of overseas Filipino workers and their families, and the organisation Unlad Kabayan. (List of Participants)

Recognising that migration is one of the key features of today¹s global, political, social and economic life, the Committee discussed first of all, the relationship between migration and development, noting that if properly managed migration can contribute to the development of both countries of origin and of destination. On this theme, great emphasis was placed in the debates on the need to strengthen the rights of migrants and of including these rights in the development agenda, and a number of recommendations were agreed. The impact of female migration received particular attention during the discussions and a series of proposals and initiatives were put forward. Irregular migration and the need for policy responses that properly address its root causes were examined, together with related legislation, procedures and criteria to deal with this issue. Human rights and the rights of migrants were placed at the centre of a Œpeople first¹ approach to migration and the responsibilities of states were highlighted, as was the need for cooperation among all stakeholders in migration, among them, governments, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, civil society and the migrants themselves. The results of the meeting are included in the Manila Declaration which summarises the debates and details a series of proposals and initiatives agreed by the Committee.

The next meeting of the Committee will be held in early 2008 in the United States of America.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bolivia withdraws military from School of the Americas

Evo Morales Announces: "No More Bolivian Soldiers to the SOA/WHINSEC!"

We are very excited to announce that President Evo Morales announced Tuesday that Bolivia will gradually withdraw its military from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School for the Americas (SOA). Bolivia is now the fifth country after Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to formally announce a withdrawal from the school!

"We will gradually withdraw until there are no Bolivian officers attending the School of the Americas," said Morales. Questioning the U.S. government's foreign policy he noted that "they are teaching high ranking officers to confront their own people, to identify social movements as their enemies."

This is a great victory for torture survivors, social movement leaders and human rights activists of Bolivia and the Americas. The SOA/WHINSEC has played a significant role in Bolivia's recent political history, Hugo Banzer Suarez, who ruled Bolivia from 1971-1978 under a brutal military dictatorship attended the school in 1956 and was later inducted into the school's "hall of fame" in 1988. The SOA has trained tens of thousands of Bolivian military officers in the past fifty years. In October of 2006, two former graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC, Generals Juan Veliz Herrera and Gonzalo Rocabado Mercado were arrested on charges of torture, murder, and violation of the constitution for their responsibility in the death of 67 civilians in El Alto Bolivia during the "Gas Wars" of September-October 2003.

In March 2006 a School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) delegation led by Lisa Sullivan-Rodriguez, Salvadoran torture survivor Carlos Mauricio, and SOA Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois met with President Evo Morales to request that Bolivia cease to send troops for training at the SOA/WHINSEC.

* Our work in Latin America has been made possible through your support and donations, please contribute to our Latin America Project by making a donation to SOA Watch.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Conference: NNIRR

A national conference
for immigrant & refugee rights
Una conferencia nacional para
los derechos de inmigrantes y refugiados

January 18-20, 2008
Hyatt Regency Houston
Houston, Texas

More information and conference registration will be available October 15, 2007 at
Bringing together immigrant and refugee community leaders and organizations, activists, organizers, advocates and allies to strategize on directions and priorities for an immigrant and refugee rights movement based on justice & dignity.

Help build a shared 'Immigrant Rights Platform' for the 2008 elections and beyond!

Limited travel scholarships will be available.

Tentative Workshops, Tracks & Topics:

* Border and interior immigration law enforcement
* Globalization and Migration
* Alliance Building
* Promoting the Human Rights of Im/Migrants
* Addressing 'Root Causes'
* Immigration, Labor and Workers Rights
* Immigration Policy and Legislation
* Organizing Skills Development
* Popular Education for Transformative Community Organizing
* Immigration, Immigrant Rights and the 2008 Elections
* Racism and Immigration
* Open Space and Global Cafe/Caucuses
For more information email:
Una conferencia nacional para
los derechos de inmigrantes y refugiados
A national conference for immigrant & refugee rights

Del 18 al 20 de Enero, 2008
En el hotel Hyatt Regency Houston
Houston, Texas

Más información y la matriculación para la conferencia estarán disponibles empezando el 15 de Octubre, 2007 en
Convocando a miembros, líderes y organizaciones de comunidades inmigrantes y refugiadas, activistas, organizadores, defensores y aliados de los derechos de inmigrantes para pensar juntos las direcciones y las prioridades de un movimiento pro derechos inmigrantes con justicia y dignidad.
¡Ayude a construir una 'plataforma de derechos inmigrantes' compartida para las elecciones del 2008 y más allá!
Habrán becas limitadas para apoyar su participacion en la conferencia
Talleres, vías y temas tentativos:
Control migratorio en la frontera y el interior
Globalización y migración
Construcción de alianzas
Promoviendo los derechos humanos de inmigrantes y migrantes
Las 'causas raíces' de la migración
Inmigración, derechos laborales y trabajadores
Política y legislación migratoria
Desarrollo de destrezas organizativas
Destrezas en educación popular
La inmigración, los derechos de inmigrantes y las elecciones del 2008
Racismo e inmigración
Espacios abiertos y cafés globales/grupos de interés
Para más información escríbanos a:

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The life and legacy of Che

The Life & Legacy of Latin American Revolutionary
Ernesto "Che" Guevara: Forty Years After His Death

Democracy Now - October 9, 2007


JUAN GONZALEZ: Today marks the fortieth anniversary of
the death of one of the most influential figures of the
last century: Latin American revolutionary Ernesto
'Che' Guevara. Born in Argentina in 1928, Che rose to
international prominence as one of the key leaders of
the 1959 Cuban Revolution that overthrew dictator
Fulgencio Batista.

After a period in the new Cuban government leadership,
Che aimed to spark revolutionary activity
internationally. In 1965, he led a secret Cuban
operation aiding and training rebels in the Congo. One
year later, Che was in Bolivia, helping to lead an
uprising against the US-backed government. On October
8, 1967, he was captured by Bolivian troops working
with the CIA. He was executed one day later.

Commemorations are underway today in Cuba, Bolivia and
around the world. Some 10,000 people turned out Monday
for a ceremony in Santa Clara, Cuba. Che's daughter
Aleida Guevara addressed the crowd.

ALEIDA GUEVARA: [translated] I want to remember
the commitment we all have in order to make our
society stronger. Today, Latin America is
starting to wake up and make all of our dreams
come true. We have to be present and firmer than
ever. That is the greatest homage we can make to
our fathers and our loved ones.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che Guevara,
speaking Monday in Havana. In a moment, we'll be joined
by Latin American historian Greg Grandin, but first Che
in his own words. This is an excerpt of Che's address
to the United Nations in December 1964.

CHE GUEVARA: [translated] The bestiality of
imperialism, a bestiality that knows no limits,
that has no national frontiers. The bestiality of
Hitler's armies is like the North American
bestiality, like that of Belgian paratroopers and
that of French imperialists in Algeria, for it is
the very essence of imperialism to turn men into
wild, bloodthirsty animals determined to
slaughter, kill, murder and destroy the very last
vestige of the image of the revolutionary or the
partisan in any regime that they crush under
their boots because it fights for freedom. The
statue of Lumumba, destroyed today, but rebuilt
tomorrow, reminds us of this tragic story of this
martyr of the world revolution and makes sure
that we will never trust imperialism, in no way
at all, not an iota.

AMY GOODMAN: Che Guevara, speaking to the UN General
Assembly, December 11, 1964. Just days later, a group
of journalists interviewed Che at the Cuban mission in
New York. The legendary reporter from Pacifica, Chris
Koch, was among that group. This is a rare excerpt of
the press conference, beginning with Koch's

CHRIS KOCH: This is Chris Koch. On Wednesday
night, December 16th, a group of American
Socialist journalists and writers spent about an
hour talking with Comandante Che Guevara at the
Cuban mission here in New York. I was there with
a microphone and tape recorder, and this program
will be a report of that meeting with the Cuban
Minister of Industry.

East 67th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue
was blocked off by barricades and a handful of
policemen. The group of writers, who had met at a
restaurant in the neighborhood, were stopped by
police at the corner. We waited until clearance
came from the Cuban mission building near the
center of the block, then walked into a large
townhouse through a tight line of New York's
finest making comments and nudging us as we tried
to get through the door.

We waited in a storeroom for about a half an hour
and then went upstairs into a large room with a
high ceiling, a desk, a marble fireplace,
chandeliers, and three sofas partially
surrounding a large coffee table. The writers
arranged themselves on the sofa, and Comandante
Guevara knelt on the floor in front of the table.
Those standing soon settled down on the floor
around the table next to him.

Comandante Guevara was dressed in pressed
military fatigues and polished black boots.
During the conversation, he was in constant
motion, lying on his side, shifting to a
squatting position, back to his side, resting his
head on his hands, and puffing constantly on a
cigar. Constant motion. Guevara was relaxed,
joked much, smiled always.

One area of the discussion dealt with his own
revolutionary past and his analysis of the Cuban
guerrilla struggle.

CHRIS KOCH: You are Argentinean by birth,
and rather than make a revolution in the
Argentine, you went out and, as I
understand it, traveled and stayed in
several countries before coming into
conjunction with Fidel Castro in Mexico. I
would like to ask how you look back upon
this and see it as some kind of lucky
juncture, or that somehow you were
searching until a revolutionary situation
coalesced, or...

CHE GUEVARA: [translated] It seems to be a
question to be answered after three or four
drinks in a more intimate atmosphere. In
general, we could say there are some
moments in our revolution that are things
completely mad, crazy: the attack against
the Moncada Barracks, the expedition of the
Granma, the struggle with the handful of
men that remained, the defense against the
last great attack by the dictatorship in
Sierra Maestra, the invasion of the
province of Las Villas, the seizure of the
principal towns. If you analyze each one of
those things, you will reach the conclusion
that there was something mad in the middle,
something crazy in the middle. And as all
of them, as a chain, led to the seizure of
power, you may have to reach a conclusion
that in order to seize power you have to be
a little crazy.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of a rare interview with Che
Guevara, December 11, 1964, from the Pacifica Radio

Greg Grandin joins us now, professor of Latin American
history at New York University, author of Empire's
Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the
Rise of the New Imperialism, just out in paperback.

Talk about how Che Guevara, an Argentine, ends up
leading, with Fidel Castro, the Cuban Revolution.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, it's an interesting story, and
before I -- what makes Che so iconic is that his life
embodies the revolutionary century of Latin America.
And a lot of your listeners may know what -- viewers
may be aware of Che's motorcycle diary trip, where he
toured around Latin America, and through that he
developed a consciousness, a Pan-American
consciousness. Well, right after that trip, he wound up
in Guatemala, which was undergoing a profound
democratic revolution between 1944 and 1954.

Guatemala was one of the most ambitious social
democratic revolutions that emerged throughout Latin
America after World War II. And what's important about
Guatemala is that by 1948, 1950, most democratic
revolutions in Latin America had been rolled back, or
there was a wave of reaction throughout the continent.
But in Guatemala the revolution actually deepened. And
Che spent 1953 -- wound up in Guatemala -- he landed in
Guatemala in 1953, and he lived through the
counterrevolution. This was the United States's first
CIA-orchestrated coup in Latin America.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Against Arbenz.

GREG GRANDIN: Against Jacobo Arbenz -- United Fruit
Company -- defending the interests of the United Fruit

AMY GOODMAN: So, first, the US CIA had overthrown Iran
in 1953.


AMY GOODMAN: Then, trying to use the same model, goes

GREG GRANDIN: Well, it was actually even more
ambitious. Iran was a pretty fast operation, a couple
of weeks. Guatemala was the most extensive and
ambitious CIA operation to date. It utilized every
aspect of US power, not just military and economic and
political, but a whole broad array of psychological
destabilization campaigns. Pretty much --

JUAN GONZALEZ: There was quite a bit of penetration of
the Guatemalan press, as well, beforehand to prepare
the way for the coup, as well.

GREG GRANDIN: The press, exactly. That's what I mean.
It was really -- it became the model for other coups,
in which the United States would destabilize the civil
society organizations, the press and the --

AMY GOODMAN: John Foster Dulles was the head of the
State Department at the time. Formerly he was the
corporate lawyer for United Fruit --


AMY GOODMAN: -- on behalf of whom Guatemala was

GREG GRANDIN: Yes. The United Fruit Company had some
land expropriated, and the United States was concerned
about the legalization of the Communist Party. And
what's important, in terms of Che, is that he witnessed
this. He was -- in Guatemala, he developed more of a
revolutionary consciousness. He worked as a socially
committed doctor administering to the country's poor in
a clinic, and he saw the overthrow of what was the most
-- the longest-lasting post-war democracy in Latin
America firsthand.

He had to flee to the -- he took asylum in the
Argentine embassy. It was in the embassy, he spent a
few months, and he met a number of future
revolutionaries, Guatemalan new left armed
revolutionaries. And then he managed to flee and
receive exile in Mexico, and that's where he met --
that's where he met Fidel Castro and joined the Cuban
Revolution and went on to make history.

But Guatemala had a deep impact on him. He would go on
to justify the closing down -- the suppressing of civil
liberties in Cuba and the radicalization of the
revolution in Cuba, by saying that Cuba will not be
another Guatemala. In many ways, Guatemala, much more
than Cuba -- diplomatic historians love to focus on
Cuba. They think the Cold War began and end in Cuba,
but it was really Guatemala that was much more of a
turning point, not just in Che's life, but for a whole
generation of Latin American reformists and
nationalists and democrats. It led to a deep
radicalization and a sense that democracy and reform
would not come about through an alliance with the
national bourgeoisie and national progressive
capitalist class. It was witnessing the downfall of the
Guatemalan democracy, in which elites did ally with the
CIA and the US, that led to a much more radical
understanding of how to bring about social change and
the Cuban Revolution.

What's also important about the overthrow of Arbenz is
that it became a model, as Juan mentioned, for the Bay
of Pigs operation. And because of the success or the
easy success, the seemingly easy success, of the
overthrow of Arbenz, CIA got a bit confident, and a lot
of -- many of the assumptions that they -- the lessons
that they thought they learned from Guatemala they
applied in the Bay of Pigs. Of course, the Bay of Pigs
was a complete disaster, that went on to have a much
more radicalizing influence throughout the Americas.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the Bay of Pigs, but even how once
Fidel and Che had linked up in Mexico, how they
actually launched the Revolution, came into Cuba.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, they had a yacht, the Granma. It's
a ship in which they set out on an expedition. There
was a -- I can't remember the number, but it became --
it has become myth that there were twelve -- that once
they landed, Batista's army was waiting for them, and
they ambushed them, and the number of the people on the
expedition, which I think started with eighty men, or
something like that, around eighty-something, it's
become myth that twelve survived. Obviously, that has a
certain resonance with the New Testament. And twelve
made it into the Sierra Maestra and began to organize,
and among them were Che and Fidel. And Che developed a
reputation, a well-deserved reputation, as a military
strategist, and he took the -- he won a number of key
battles against Batista's army.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Once the Revolution triumphed against
Batista -- and obviously Cuba was very different in
that it had a very large existing labor movement that
provided eventually some mass base for the guerrillas,
as well as those in the countryside -- Che then begins
to -- doesn't spend very much time actually
constructing the Revolution, does he?

GREG GRANDIN: No. He's not really a policymaker. He is
more of a -- what could be understood as an action
intellectual. He was the head of the -- speaking of
Alan Greenspan, he was the head of the central bank,
Cuban central bank, and minister of the economy of

He wanted to go fast. His plan for Cuba was to
centralize authority and industrialize as quick as
possible. In an island of eight million people at the
time, it didn't -- six million people at the time, that
was not a very practical plan. As Cuba became closer to
the Soviet Union, it became clear that they weren't
going to industrialize.

And there were some divisions. Historians debate just
to what degree there was rivalry within the Cuban
Revolution between Fidel and Che. But Che's giving up
his formal position within the Cuban government, and he
toured the United States, and then he went to Africa to
join a guerrilla movement in the Congo, and that was a
failure. And then, from there he went to Bolivia.

AMY GOODMAN: There, he met Laurent Kabila --


Monday, October 08, 2007

CAFTA Wins in Costa Rica Vote

CAFTA Wins in Razor-Close Costa Rica Vote

AlterNet Posted on October 8, 2007

Editor's Note: On Sunday, in the first ever public
referendum on a trade agreement, Costa Ricans approved
CAFTA by a 51-48 margin. Opposition organizers have
asked for a recount. Below is a press release issued by
Public Citizen.

The depth of public opposition to North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA)-style pacts was demonstrated
Sunday by Costa Rica's massive "no" vote to CAFTA
despite a intensive campaign led by the country's
president, months of deceptive radio and television
advertising in favor of the pact, and a threatening
statement issued Saturday by the White House, Public
Citizen said today.

The strong vote against CAFTA likely will fuel growing
opposition to another Bush proposal now before Congress
to expand NAFTA to Peru. The Peru Free Trade Agreement
(FTA) contains the same foreign investor privileges,
service sector privatization, agriculture and other
provisions that fueled Costa Rican public opposition.

"That nearly half the public in Latin America's richest
free-market democracy opposed CAFTA despite the
intensive campaign in favor of it should end the
repeated claims that pushing more NAFTA-style free
trade deals is critical to U.S. foreign policy
interests in the region or helps the U.S. image," said
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade
Watch division. "This vote also debunks the claim that
these pacts are motivated out of U.S. altruism to help
poor people in trade partner countries, given that many
of the people in question just announced that they
themselves don't want this kind of trade policy. This
policy, supported by the elite, will help foreign
investors seize control of their natural resources,
undermine access to essential services, displace
peasant farmers and jack up medicines prices."

Preliminary results showed that those opposing CAFTA
garnered just over 48 percent of the vote and those for
it garnered under 52 percent. The anti-CAFTA vote
received the majority in most rural regions, where
fears about campesino displacement drove opposition to
the pact. The pro-CAFTA vote won narrow majorities in
most urban, populous regions, where Bush
administration's threats made Thursday and Saturday
were widely covered by the media despite a legally
mandated black-out on advocacy for or against CAFTA in
the press. As of Monday morning, the "no" campaign had
not conceded and was awaiting a partial recount on
Tuesday and an investigation into polling station

Citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala
and the Dominican Republic had no opportunity to voice
their own views of CAFTA. Despite massive, long-running
public demonstrations against CAFTA in those countries
- which resulted in protestors being killed by the
police in Guatemala and a legislature fleeing its own
building to hold the vote in a downtown hotel in
Honduras - legislatures in those countries ultimately
ratified and implemented CAFTA by mid-2006.

In Costa Rica, the CAFTA debate coincided with that
nation's presidential election. With fair trade
presidential candidate Otton Solis running against
CAFTA-supporter and Nobel-Prize winner Oscar Arias on a
campaign focusing on the widely unpopular NAFTA
expansion, CAFTA never came to a vote in Costa Rica.
Early in 2007, after Arias narrowly won, Costa Rica's
legislature passed a measure establishing a national
referendum on whether Costa Rica should enter CAFTA.

That Sunday's referendum resulted in narrow passage is
not surprising given considerable intervention by the
Bush administration and a massive, well-funded campaign
for the pact led by Costa Rica's president and pushed
heavily by the corporate sector and much of Costa
Rica's media. The Bush administration repeatedly
threatened to remove Costa Rica's existing Caribbean
Basin Initiative (CBI) trade preferences if the public
rejected CAFTA, even though the program was made
permanent in 1990 and only an act of Congress could
terminate it. (A tiny percentage of Costa Rica's U.S.
exports enjoys duty-free benefits under a CBI add-on
program that was approved in 2000. The tremendously
popular program, which covers nearly two dozen
countries and cannot be removed for rejection of an
FTA, is set for renewal next year.)

"Right now, we see the same duplicity with the proposed
NAFTA expansion to Peru, where proponents claim that
implementing the Peru agreement is critical to building
a positive U.S. image in the region," Wallach said.
"Yet if these agreements are good foreign policy, why
did the Bush administration also threaten to remove
existing Andean trade preferences to force the deal
over the opposition of the Peruvian public as well as
its religious, indigenous and labor leaders?"

The U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Mark Langdale, was
slammed with a rare formal denunciation before Costa
Rica's Supreme Electoral Tribunal in August after he
waged a lengthy campaign to influence the vote on
CAFTA. As part of that, Langdale employed misleading
threats and suggested there would be economic reprisals
if CAFTA were rejected. In response, Rep. Linda Sanchez
(D-Calif.) who serves on the House Foreign Affairs
Committee's Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, wrote a
letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in late
September demanding the cessation of Langdale's
interventions. "Even the perception of such
interference harms the U.S. image in a region already
suspicious of our intentions," Sanchez wrote. "If we
are to be seen as respecting democracy, sovereignty,
and economic development, we must not interfere in any
way with the historic popular referendum on CAFTA in
Costa Rica, the region's oldest and strongest

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid in late September sent a letter to Costa
Rica's ambassador to the United States correcting
Langdale's false threats that Costa Rica would lose its
CBI trade preferences if the public rejected CAFTA.
"Participation in CBI is not conditioned on a country's
decision to approve or reject a free trade agreement
with the United States, and we do not support such a
linkage," Pelosi and Reid wrote. Despite this, Bush's
U.S. Trade Representative renewed the threats on
Thursday, and the White House issued a statement
repeating the threats on Saturday - just hours before
the vote.

"Only two years after CAFTA squeezed through Congress
on a one-vote margin, the narrowest margin ever for a
trade deal, nearly half of Costa Rica's public took a
strong stand, in the face of campaign trickery and
lies, against the damaging agreement," said Todd
Tucker, research director for Public Citizen's Global
Trade Watch division and author of the CAFTA Damage
Report. "No more countries should be subjected to the
damaging policies imposed by overreaching 'trade'

(c) 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hugo Chavez and Galbraith

Chávez: 'Galbraithiano'


The Nation
October 15, 2007

Last year, the New York Times reported that Hugo
Chávez, in his speech before the United Nations--the
one in which he called George W. Bush the Devil and
urged Americans to read Noam Chomsky--expressed regret
that he hadn't had a chance to meet the linguist before
he died. A call to Mr. Chomsky's house, the Times
writer quipped, found him very much alive. The Times,
though, had to issue a quick correction when, upon
review of the original Spanish, it became clear that
Chávez was referring not to Chomsky but rather to John
Kenneth Galbraith, who had indeed passed away a few
months before.

There is something more than a little ironic about this
incident, where the press, in a rush to ridicule the
controversial Hugo Chávez, lost John Kenneth Galbraith
in translation, for it is exactly the Harvard
economist's brand of New Deal social democracy, itself
long expunged from public discussion, that would allow
for a more honest consideration not just of Chavismo
but the broader Latin American left of which it is a
vital part.

Chávez has described himself as a "Galbraithiano" and
says he started reading the economist, whose books have
been available in Spanish in Latin America since the
1950s, as a teenager. Long before he began referring to
Chomsky and other currently better-known political
thinkers, he cited Galbraith to explain his economic
policies; at the beginning of his presidency, in 1999,
for example, he urged a gathering of Venezuelan
industrialists to support his mild reform program,
quoting Galbraith to warn that if they didn't, the
"toxins" generated by "extreme economic liberalism"
could "turn against the system and destroy it."

Galbraith is celebrated not just by Chávez but by a
wide range of reformers, including Ecuador's new
president, Rafael Correa, himself an economist. This
popularity reflects a growing enthusiasm for the state
regulation of the economy that Galbraith prescribed. As
Latin America struggles to remedy the damage caused by
two decades of failed free-market orthodoxy--which has
produced dismal growth rates and widespread social
turmoil and misery--politicians are rehabilitating key
macroeconomic principles unthinkable a decade ago.
Argentina, for example, has generated the region's most
impressive growth by lowering interest rates,
maintaining a competitive currency exchange rate,
enacting price controls to stem inflation and driving a
hard bargain with international creditors, thus wiping
out two-thirds of the country's external debt and
freeing up state revenue for social spending and

Galbraith has attracted admirers in Latin America not
just for his macroeconomics but for his critique of
corporate monopolies. His belief that corporations are
political instruments with the incentive and ability to
corrupt democracy resonates today in a region where
much of the economy is controlled by foreign firms and
where corporate TV (which Galbraith believed had little
to do with free speech and everything to do with
manufacturing consumer demand) has become a bulwark of
elite privilege. Galbraith's solution was to use the
state to set up a system of what he called
"countervailing power," enacting aggressive union
protection, unemployment insurance, subsidies, welfare
and minimum wage guarantees to counter monopolies and
force a more just distribution of national wealth.

In Latin America, a similar version of democratic
developmentalism held sway in the early 1940s.
Reformers from across the political spectrum believed
the region's oligarchy to be an obstacle to
modernization and thought the best way to weaken its
deadening grip was to empower those in its thrall. But
the cold war cut short this democratic experiment, as
Washington threw its support behind reactionary allies
in order to insure continental stability.

Developmentalism continued into the 1970s but under the
auspices of either authoritarian or military regimes,
which responded to demands for a more equitable share
of power and wealth with increasing repression,
culminating in the wave of terror that swept the
region, from Chile to Guatemala, in the 1970s and '80s.
This violence, which in many countries decimated the
left, made possible the radical free-market economics
that reigned throughout Latin America during the last
two decades of the twentieth century.

The re-emergence of the Latin American left signals a
revival of democratic developmentalism, but with a key
difference. While in the 1940s reformers sought to
extend political power through unions and peasant
associations vertically linked to parties or leaders,
today they rely on a diverse, horizontal array of "new
social movements" to counter their countries' extreme
concentration of wealth and political power--Brazil's
Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, for
example, or Bolivia's Movimiento al Socialismo, less a
political party than a coalition of social movements,
or Ecuador's powerful indigenous groups.

But it is Venezuela that has the most advanced
partnership between a state reclaiming the right to
regulate the economy and a diverse array of
antineoliberal social movements. What sets Chavismo
apart from past populist experiments in Latin America
is its heterogeneity. It is impossible to spend any
time in urban barrios, among co-op members, community
media and other cultural activists, or in the
countryside with peasant organizers and not be
impressed with their diversity of interests, civic
investment and commitment to building a more humane

The countervailing power of left civil society
organizations--many existed before Chávez's ascendance;
some were founded afterward--has turned Venezuela into
a vibrant democracy and is key to understanding not
just the government's survival in the face of a series
of formidable antidemocratic assaults but its evolving
program, as many of its initiatives come not top-down
but from the grassroots. Last December a respected
Chilean polling firm found that in Latin America only
Uruguayans held a more favorable view of their
democracy than Venezuelans.

The question Venezuela faces is how to institutionalize
this relationship between a fortified executive and an
empowered citizenry while protecting individual rights
and limiting corruption. Debates are under way over a
series of constitutional reforms, to be voted on in a
national referendum in December, that attempt to do
just that. While the international media have focused
on a proposal to remove presidential term limits, other
initiatives would greatly strengthen community
councils, created two years ago as the building blocks
of Venezuela's "participatory democracy," in charge of
a range of local issues, from education and healthcare
to sanitation and road repair. While critics see the
councils as another mechanism for Chávez to strengthen
his power, the Washington Post writes that in "the
neighborhoods, it's hard to find anything but bubbling

Could Chavismo devolve into old-style authoritarianism?
Of course. But the record so far indicates otherwise.
For all his rhetorical excess, Chávez has presided over
an unprecedented peaceful social revolution, doubling
his electoral support in the process. Save for Chile's
Popular Unity government--which never received nearly
as much approval at the polls as Chávez's Bolivarian
experiment has--it is hard to think of another instance
where such a profound reordering of political and
economic relations has been ratified so many times at
the ballot box. This is a remarkable accomplishment,
for revolutions, by their nature, tend to generate
crises that drain away much of their initial support,
producing cycles of violence and repression.

This achievement is rarely reported on in the US media.
Chávez often repeats an observation by one of his
favorite economists to bring home the point. "Never
before," the Venezuelan president quotes Galbraith as
saying, "has the distance between reality and
'conventional wisdom' been as great as it is today."


Monday, October 01, 2007

Evo Morales in U.S.

Published on Monday, October 1, 2007 by
Bolivia’s Evo Morales Wins Hearts and Minds in US
by Deborah James and Medea Benjamin
While Iranian President Ahmedinejad stole the headlines during the United Nations meeting last week in New York, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales - a humble coca farmer, former llama herder and union organizer - stole the hearts of the American people. At public events and media appearances, Bolivia’s first-ever indigenous president reached out to the American people to dialogue directly on issues of democracy, environmental sustainability, and social and economic justice.

Morales appeared at a public event packed with representatives of New York’s Latino, labor, and other communities, speaking for 90 minutes - without notes - about how he came to power, and about his government’s efforts to de-colonize the nation, the poorest in South America. At first, he said, community organizations did not want to enter the cesspool of politics. But they realized that if they wanted the government to act in the interest of the poor Indigenous majority, they were going to have to make alliances with other social movements, win political representation democratically, and then transform the government.

Now having been elected to office, they have a clear mandate based on the urgent needs of the majority: to organize a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the Constitution (controversial with the traditional elites, but well on its way), engage in a comprehensive program of land reform and decriminalize the production of coca for domestic use (in progress), and reclaim control over the oil and gas industries (mission accomplished.)

While other heads of state were meeting with bankers and billionaires, Morales asked his staff to set up a meeting with U.S. grassroots leaders so he could learn about our struggles and how we could work together. The meeting included high-ranking labor leaders, immigrant organizers, Indigenous leaders, peace activists and environmentalists. “I’ve lived in New York during a lot of UN meetings, and I’ve never seen a president reach out to the labor community like Evo did today,” remarked Ed Ott, Executive Director of the New York City Central Labor Council.

The President listened patiently while U.S. organizers talked about efforts to stop the war in Iraq, injustices in the prison system, organizing efforts of low-wage immigrant workers, struggles for Indigenous rights and the difficulties of getting the Bush administration to seriously address the crisis of climate change. “For a farmer to become President, that is a dream come true!” commented Niel Ritchie, president of the League of Rural Voters. “Listening to President Morales, it’s so easy to see how our current trade model has wreaked havoc on farmers in the U.S. as well as in Bolivia.”

His most widespread outreach, however, was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who also seemed captivated by this Indigenous farmer-turned-president. Speaking through an interpreter, Morales told millions of Americans how his government’s policies have brought hundreds of millions of dollars for the nation’s poor - that would have gone to foreign corporate coffers - through the nationalization of oil and gas. Revenues from hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas, have increased from $440 million in 2004 to over $1.5 billion in 2006 - a significant amount in Bolivia’s economy, as it is an increase from 5 percent of GDP to over 13 percent of GDP. This year revenues will likely top $2 billion, he said. With a twinkle in his eye as he made a measured critique of the Bush administration’s policies, he said that in this new century, armies should save lives through humanitarian aid, not take lives.

Throughout Morales’ media appearances (including a lengthy segment on Democracy Now!), official speeches at the United Nations, and public meetings, he focused on three main points. The most salient was on the urgency of the need for comprehensive solutions to climate change while simultaneously improving the lives of the poor. “We have to be honest about the causes of this global warming. Overconsumption in the developed countries. Overpollution in the developed countries.” At the same time, he argued that the poor still need more access to energy: “Just like we fought to make water a human right, we need an international campaign to make access to energy a human right.”

These sentiments resonated with Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth US, who participated in the meeting with Morales. “We need to find solutions that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the countries of the global north, while fighting for clean energy and poverty reduction in the global south.” Van Jones, Founder of Green for All agreed. “We’re fighting for social justice and climate solutions within the U.S., and we can join forces with and learn from our allies, like President Morales, with the same vision globally.”

Morales also emphasized the importance of the struggle for the right to life, which in Bolivia refers to the fight against corporate globalization and for access to water, food, education, and health care. Specifically, before Morales was elected, Bolivia suffered tremendously under two decades of programs of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, including the privatizations of water services and the hydrocarbon industry. Bolivia has now had much of its debt cancelled and is no longer bound by an IMF agreement, thanks to the anti-debt movement and a lot of help from Venezuela.

Although Bolivia is rich in natural resources, the Indigenous majority has rarely benefited from their exploitation, and the country remains vastly unequal and majority poor. The Bolivian government’s efforts to ensure a more fair distribution of the natural resource wealth has resulted in their being sued by foreign multinational corporations for “future expected profits” from their investments.

Under international trade and investment agreements, these cases are adjudicated - not in Bolivian national courts, as would be the case for national companies - but through the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, ICSID. (This is similar to the “rights” given to foreign investors to sue sovereign governments in bilateral and regional trade agreements, called “Chapter 11″ investor-to-state provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement.) ICSID does not have the transparency, checks and balances, or openness of a real judicial system, yet its findings are binding.

This past May, the Bolivian government announced it would withdraw from ICSID. Although most Americans are unaware of ICSID, it is regularly used by U.S. and European corporations to counter efforts by developing countries to re-nationalize natural resources and the provision of public services like water, according to a major report by the Institute for Policy Studies and Food and Water Watch. During his talks, Morales called on the international community to support their efforts for “an ongoing global campaign against this type of investor rule.”

The third point highlighted by Morales relates to bilateral relations with the United States. The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) currently operates an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Bolivia. (OTI offices are usually designed to help enable Washington-favored regime change; the only other one in Latin America is in Venezuela.) The Bolivian government has accused the United States of using USAID money to build opposition to the new government and its political party, the MAS, something the U.S. had done in the past. According to the Associated Press, “A declassified 2002 cable from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz described a USAID-sponsored ‘political party reform project’ to ‘help build moderate, pro-democracy political parties that can serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS or its successors.’”

But Evo’s main argument was regarding the former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, commonly known as Goni. During the “gas wars” of 2003, troops fired on protesters, killing 67 and wounding over 300 people. Days later, Goni abdicated the presidency and flew to Washington, DC, where he now resides. The Bolivian Supreme Court is seeking extradition of Goni, and two of his former ministers, not for revenge, according to Evo, but “so that they can be held accountable for their crimes by standing trial in Bolivia.”

While it seems unlikely that the United States would consent to the extradition, considering their lack of cooperation with the Venezuelan government’s request for the extradition of terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, the recent agreement of the Chilean government to extradite former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori to face trial in Peru does set a precedent that will be hard for the United States to ignore. The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns has worked to educate the public about this issue, and the Center for Constitutional Rights just announced a new major lawsuit against Goni and former Minister of Defense Jose Carlos Sánchez Berzaín for compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) on behalf of families of the victims.

After decades of politicians who robbed the country’s coffers and left the people in poverty and despair, Bolivia now has a leader who is known to be honest, sincere and trustworthy. Bolivia also has a leader who inspires hope in the Indigenous population. This hope is now embodied, worldwide, in the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a brand-new declaration approved in the United Nations this September, after a 25-year struggle. At the grassroots meeting with Morales, Tonya Gonella Frichner, President and Founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, highlighted Bolivia’s helpful role in the passage of the declaration, and both she and Morales agreed that “the next step is ensuring that the declaration is implemented.”

Morales, anxious to apply Indigenous wisdom to solve the global climate crisis, is calling for the United Nations to convene a world indigenous forum to “foster a new approach to economic relations based on an appreciation of natural resources and not their exploitation.”

The world has much to learn from the sustainable lifestyles of Indigenous people and from the grassroots movement that has come to power in Bolivia. At a time when our planet is crying out for leadership with vision and integrity, Evo Morales and the Bolivian example should give hope to us all.

Deborah James is the Director of International Programs at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Medea Benjamin is a Co-Founder of Global Exchange and CodePink: Women for Peace.