Friday, February 29, 2008

Cuba's Aid Programme

In Bolivia

By Hugh O'Shaughnessy
BBC News

Though the facts are not widely reported around the world, Cuba supplies aid to a number of countries and one of the biggest aid schemes is in Bolivia.

"There is usually a love interest behind it all, if you ask me," says Dr Maria de los Angeles.
A sparky woman from Guines, not far from Havana, she is the director of the Cuban-Venezuelan eye hospital at El Alto, 13,000 feet up (3,962m) in the High Andes. It serves La Paz, the main city of Bolivia, which lies in a canyon 1,000 feet (305m) below us.
We are discussing why a very small number of the 2,000 Cuban medical personnel sent to Bolivia from the island over the past two years have jumped ship and gone home.
Her colleague Dr Mabel, an attractive young eye surgeon from Pinar del Rio, the western-most province of Cuba, agrees.
"There's no pack of parties here," she murmurs contentedly.

At the same time, both women fiercely agree about the worth of what they are doing, attending without charge to the sight of thousands of poor Bolivians, who otherwise would not be able to see.
"Nothing could be more rewarding," says Mabel, who is on her first overseas posting, or "mission" as the Cubans call it.
They add that it is not a bad career deal either.
"We get our salaries paid in Cuba, our food and lodging is paid here, and we get some pocket money," says her colleague.

Immense benefits

We walk around her scrupulously clean premises with its well-stocked pharmacy, neat rows of free Chinese-made spectacles, and an occasional Che Guevara poster.
Maria de los Angeles reflects on her time and on the years she spent among the indigenous peoples of Guatemala.
"Until I went from Cuba to Guatemala and Bolivia, I didn't know what real poverty was," she says.
The two surgeons are part of an ambitious medical and literacy programme here, and in many other countries around the world. It has brought the Cuban government immense benefits in terms of gratitude from beneficiaries and foreign governments alike.

What Cuba has done in Bolivia alone is staggering.
In a score of general hospitals built mainly with Venezuelan money over the past two years, 2,000 Cuban medical staff including 1,300 qualified doctors have been at work.
They have provided more than nine million consultations.
In particular, Maria de los Angeles, Mabel, and her colleagues have carried out 200,000 operations in ophthalmological units up and down Bolivia.

So popular are they, that the units built on the frontiers with Peru and Argentina have treated more Peruvians and Argentines than Bolivians.
"We treat anyone who walks in, and we do it for nothing," says Maria de los Angeles.

Literacy programme

In the other Cuban hospitals in this country, services go from preventative medicine - which has pushed down infant mortality and pushed up life expectancy - to general healthcare and emergency operations.

Then there is the joint Cuban-Venezuelan literacy programme. One hundred and eighteen Cuban and 18 Venezuelan trainers backed with texts and television sets have taught Bolivian teachers the best ways of getting people to read and write.
At the Cuban embassy, the ambassador Rafael Dauza explains the diplomacy behind the scheme.
"We give our services free, bring our own supplies and equipment, and don't take any patients from the Bolivian doctors. Our staff have been accused by those who object to our presence here of being careless and unqualified. But they have never been able to stand their objections up," he says.
"And it is very difficult to attack a country that is giving free health care and education. One provincial governor who had opposed our presence here ended up having his life saved at one of our hospitals," adds Mr Dauza, with no hint of a grin.

All of this has done nothing to calm fears at the US embassy, which looks askance at the Cuban and Venezuelan presence in Bolivia.
A few days ago, the US ambassador Philip Goldberg had to apologise to Bolivia. It was established that an embassy official, Vincent Cooper, had tried to persuade a young US volunteer worker in the Peace Corps to spy on the Cubans and Venezuelans he came across.
"That was a lamentable mistake," says Mr Goldberg.

But Bolivian president Evo Morales declared Mr Cooper persona non grata. He has left for the US and will not be allowed back.
For the Cubans, the recent Cooper affair was all part of a US strategy to tempt Cuban doctors to desert.

US regulations allow Cuban citizens to enter the country with a false passport, or no passport at all.
"We are the only people on earth with that privilege," says Dauza with a wry smile.
Back at the hospital, the two eye surgeons were relaxed about the occasional defaulter.

"Some of them drift back home to Cuba anyway," says Mabel.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Starvation Warfare

By Hussein Al-Alak
Source The London Progressive Journal

In January 2007, the Iraq Solidarity Campaign informed the international community about the damage which the growth of poverty has caused to the children of Iraq, through the much publicised paper "Western Civilisation - The Unspoken Fate of Iraqi Children".

The report, which was published by a wide variety of publications including the Morning Star, URUKNET, the UN Observer, Palestine Chronicle and the Global Research Institute, reported that the increase in poverty since the 2003 invasion has resulted in the growth in the child sex trade, the forced separation of families, an increase in drug and alcohol abuse. Psychiatrists have also highlighted the effect of the ubiquitous violence on the school attendance rates and performance, referred to in the report as "learning impediments".

The report also found that 400,000 of Iraq’s children are also suffering from a condition called “wasting”, which is characterised by chronic diarrhoea and high deficiencies of protein. However, the conduct of the US-backed government of Iraq has sunk to a new low, with news that the regime of Jalal Talabani and Nouri Al-Maliki, who are not satisfied with the murder of one million Iraqis since the occupation began, now plan to starve the rest by eliminating Iraq’s already meagre ration service by June 2008.

The ration system was first established during the 1990s to combat the widespread poverty which had resulted from the UN Sanctions, in a British and American backed blockade which saw the murder of an estimated 1.5 million children due to “embargo related causes”. The 6,000 children lost per month was viewed by America’s Madeline Albright as being a “price worth paying“.

Whilst the country was ruled by Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, the United Nations themselves praised Iraq’s ration system as being “the world’s largest and most effective relief effort” and even in the face of invasion, the “tyrannical” Iraqi President “ruthlessly” provided his population with an advanced six months' supply but now the “independent” Iraqi government have decided to end the system, which has saved millions from starvation, on the grounds that the closure is “in line with the obligations it has made to the World Bank“.

Some analysts say that millions of Iraqis will be affected, particularly families with no bread winners, as well as women, the unemployed and children. It is also believed that Iraq is going to lose control of its own inflation and that the people are therefore going to experience a price increase in food, fuel and other daily essentials.

In other words, British and American Troops who are based in Iraq at the “invitation” of the Iraqi Government are going to be made to shoot their bullets at, and kick down the doors of, an increasingly starving population. Is this what being against Saddam or Al-Qaida now means?

The news has come as a shock to both campaigners and Iraqi families, in the face of recent allegations by one Arab newspaper, which recently revealed that Iraqi MP’s were being offered five million dollars each, to vote in favour of the privatisation of Iraq’s nationalised oil. It was further revealed that monies brought in from oil revenues were not even going towards the so-called ”reconstruction” of democratic Iraq.

But campaigners, led by the Iraq Solidarity Campaign (ISC), have sworn that plans to eliminate this essential service will not go unopposed in either the Middle East or the West, and have already begun to mount a challenge to the Iraqi regime and the US/British occupying powers, in a direct challenge which is already gathering momentum.

Within twenty-four hours of launching the campaign, the international petition “Act Against Iraq Poverty”, addressed to the governments of Iraq, Britain and America, has been endorsed by a variety of political parties and personalities. The ISC demand that the ration service be maintained and be developed to provide for the needs of Iraqi families.

Already the petition has been signed by many political organisations including the Communist Party of Britain’s Somerset Branch, RESPECT (renewal), a Liberal Democrat councillor, the Polish Labour Party, the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Australian Socialist Alliance, the US Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Massachusetts Green Party. Even some members of the Democratic and Republican parties in the US have endorsed it.

This is alongside the National Revival and Sovereignty Movement of Russia, the Iraq Solidarity Association in Stockholm, the Uruknet Association in Italy, and the former Scottish MSP Tommy Sheridan’s Socialist Solidarity Party in Scotland.

The breadth of international support from campaigners has also come from as far afield as Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Mexico, Sweden, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Sri Lanka, the UK and Venezuela, each with a crystal clear message to the occupying governments and their stooges; “If you don't shoot or torture your victims, you starve them to death. Shame on you!”

One supporter from the United Kingdom wrote, “I add my name to those who urge the UN, the British and Americans, to continue the rationing program in Iraq and stop the abuses aimed at hungry Iraqis!” with Ian Douglas from Cairo asking Bush, Brown, Maliki and Talabani, “What is a government that starves the people?”

Comments to the occupiers from US citizens have also included “Over a million slaughtered, millions of widows and orphans, millions of refugees - and now the dirty occupiers want to snatch the bread from the mouths of the living - stop this genocide of the defenceless Iraqi people.” As others have stated on the petition, the occupying powers need to pay the Iraqi people reparations for the damages and trauma caused by the illegal invasion in 2003. There have been other demands for an independent commission to be established and see to the perpetrators of the war and invasion be tried as war criminals.

The international campaign against the elimination of the rations has been established against the backdrop of the seriousness that ending the service will cause to the Iraqi people, as one health worker recently told Dahr Jamail of the International Press Service: "I and my wife have five boys and six girls so the ration costs a lot when it has to be bought. I cannot afford food and other expenses like study, clothes and doctors."

But as one woman recently said to Al-Jazeera, "If they reduce the quantity of the ration, we will be displaced [made homeless] as the money to pay bills will have to be used for food. If we are considered a poor family today, tomorrow we will be considered absolutely desperate."

To sign the international petition please follow the link:

Hussein Al-Alak is Chairman of the Iraq Solidarity Campaign.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bolivia & Iran

US warns Bolivia on growing ties with Iran

Feb 2008

La Paz (AP): A US congressional delegation arrived on Tuesday to smooth tensions between the two countries, but warned that Bolivia's growing ties to Iran could cost it a key US trade agreement.

Five lawmakers are promoting the extension of the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Eradication Act, which expires next week and allows duty-free imports from Andean countries as a reward for cooperating in the war on drugs.

But they arrived just a day after President Evo Morales announced that Iran wants to open a regional television network in Bolivia. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also proposed investing in Bolivia's oil and gas industry.

"There is a very high level of concern regarding the activities of Iran in Latin America," Jerry Weller, a Republican from Illinios, said following the meeting. "If this concern continues to grow in our Congress, it will be come more difficult to extend these preferences in the future," he added.

The trade deal amounted to US $385 million (euro 261 million) in Bolivian exports to the US in 2007 and provides an estimated 50,000 jobs in South America's poorest country.

Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, also called for a halt to the heated exchanges over allegations that a US embassy official in Bolivia recently asked a Fulbright scholar and Peace Corps volunteers to keep tabs on Venezuelan and Cuban workers in the country.

"We need to talk about our two countries being partners," he said.

Republished from The Times of India

What's The Stir?

A photograph portraying Obama wearing a white turban and a wraparound white robe presented to him by elders in Wajir, in northeastern Kenya has caused a lot of stir.

Nobody seemed to get upset by THIS photo!

Of this one...


Here is Cheney...

Where is the stir?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Soldier of Honor

You Tube Link Fidel Castro Speaks to Harlem, part 1 . Although this part of the speech is not really important and trivialities are spoke of, it is beautiful because the goodness of who Castro is shines thru so clearly.

Fidel Castro, Humble Soldier of Honor

Havana, Feb 21 (Prensa Latina)

Rene Gonzalez, one of Cuba"s five anti-terrorists jailed in the US since 1998, called President Fidel Castro a humble soldier of honor whose example will inspire endless generations of combatants around the world.

In letter to Fidel, Gonzalez, who along four comrades serves hefty US jail sentences ranging to double life in prison, said that "an imperial society, morally decaying, cannot understand a decision dictated by the sense of duty of a life-time revolutionary." For 55 years, a humble soldier of honor, aware that ideals cannot be killed, he preserved his life for posterity, said Gonzalez who recalled that Fidel Castro led the attack on Moncada garrison in 953, then the number two military fortress in Cuba.

"Those who count with their fingers the successive emperors humiliated by our peopleâ€Ös resistance under your leadership, will not have enough to tally the imperial servants to be buried by your ideas," he stressed.

President Fidel Castro issued a release communicating that he will neither run not accept another term as President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief, when the new Parliament begin session February 24.

Fidel Castro will neither aspire to
nor accept reelection

Havana, Feb 19 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Fidel Castro announced he will not aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief at the Parliament session scheduled for February 24th.

“This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful,” stressed the leader of the Cuban Revolution in a message released Tuesday.

Prensa Latina published the full text of Fidel Castro´s statement: Message from the Commander in Chief Dear compatriots: Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. Thus, this now is rather a message.

The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.

For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President. On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote. The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.

There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final. But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.
Later, in my necessary retreat, I was able to recover the full command of my mind as well as the possibility for much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with the corresponding rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery “was not without risks.” My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table National TV Program, --letters which at my request were made public-- I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy, whom I knew very well from his days as a student of Journalism. In those days I met almost on a weekly basis with the main representatives of the University students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense University.

Following are some paragraphs chosen from the letter addressed to Randy on December 17, 2007: “I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has, as an average, a twelfth grade of education, almost a million university graduates, and a real possibility for all its citizens to become educated without their being in any way discriminated against, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.

“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute my own experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era that I had the privilege of living in.

“Like Niemeyer, I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end.” Letter from January 8, 2008: “…I am a firm supporter of the united vote (a principle that preserves the unknown merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity towards Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen.” And I reiterated in that letter that “…I never forget that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.” Therefore, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process. Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they have given glory to the country with their heroic performance and their internationalist missions. They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require from everyone’s intelligent effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis the self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the worst variable. The principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity cannot be forgotten. The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.


Fidel Castro Ruz February 18, 2008 5:30 p.m.

Another American War

Drug War Mayhem Boils Over
From Border to Border


Mexico City.
Mexico's drug war is made in the U.S.A.

Tourists touching down at Mexico City International Airport are
hereby forewarned not to trip over the human heads that may be
rolling around at your feet when you disembark. Four have been found
in recent weeks in and around the terminal complex although their
corresponding bodies have not yet been located.

Two of the heads reportedly once belonged to employees of a freight
forwarding outfit, Jet Service. The other two, found by
schoolchildren in a colony adjacent to the airport January 14th,
have been identified as the heads of two mid-level operators for a
Tepito drug gang. Tepito, a central city neighborhood infamous for
its narco-bazaars, has been displaced as a Mexico City drug
distribution center by the airport district, according to what a top-
level cop tells the left daily La Jornada.

Benito Juarez International Airport (its official name) has long
been a nexus for drug smuggling from Andean cocaine cartel countries
like Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Although the "mulas"
("mules" - mostly women) who smuggle the drugs hidden inside their
bodies cavities run a gauntlet of federal police, airport security,
and customs inspectors, plenty of the cocaine and heroin they carry
makes it through to the waiting areas where drug gang operatives are
standing by to receive the loads.

In addition to drugs, a virtual arsenal, including long guns, was
confiscated last November when the weapons arrived in the mail at
the airport post office.

In the narco lexicon, Mexico City International Airport constitutes
a "plaza" or hot spot for trafficking that is currently being
contested by several of the country's most murderous drug cartels.
Tourists are advised to keep their heads down - and attached.

Upon taking office 13 months ago after a fraud-riddled election,
President Felipe Calderon moved to test his dubiously-acquired
authority by sending 30,000 troops into the field to wage the Bush
White House's War on Drugs in the Mexican outback. 70% of all
cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes through Mexico's borders.

But although the campaign has curried much favor in Washington, it
has not been a resounding success on the ground. Little cocaine has
been taken by the troops -although large seizures have been made in
West Coast ports on information supplied by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration. Marijuana seizures have hardly put a
dent in Mexico's seemingly never-ending supply of the notorious

The military's drug war performance has been marred by egregious
human rights violations. In one incident last June in the drug-
saturated state of Sinaloa, soldiers at an army checkpoint and
reportedly high on marijuana and alcohol, opened fire on an extended
family of eight (seven of them women and children), killing five.
This January, troops in Huetamo Michoacan killed a 17 year-old
passenger when the driver failed to obey their signals. Another
group of soldiers stands accused of raping five underage girls in
the Michoacan hot lands.

Underscoring that the use of the military in law enforcement
operations during peace time is patently unconstitutional, National
Human Rights Commission ombudsman Jose Luis Soberanes appeals to
Calderon to send the troops back to barracks, a sentiment reiterated
by United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour during a
Mexican stopover last week. Calderon insists that the army will
continue in the streets throughout the remainder of his questionable
mandate (2012.)

Local citizens protesting killings and rapes by the military are
accused of being in the employ of the narcos. A spokesperson for the
Secretary of Defense (SEDENA) recently affirmed to the national
daily El Universal that drug boss "El Chapo" Guzman was subsidizing
protestors in Sinaloa and Coahuila states to the tune of 2000 pesos
($200 USD) per demonstrator.

Meanwhile, Calderon's military offensive has failed to stem the
harvest of death. Last year, with the troops in the field, 2791
victims (7.3 a day) were registered by authorities, 500 more than
the 2221 counted in 2006 when the army was still under wraps. During
the first 15 days of 2008, 114 victims were recorded - 11.7 a day -
compared with 174 for the entire month of January 2007 - perhaps a
fifth of the dead were beheaded or otherwise mutilated.

Most of the victims are indeed attributable to gang rivalry and the
driving philosophy of drug war managers here is to let the bad guys
kill each other off. But innocents are regularly mowed down, caught
in urban crossfires or the victims of "mistaken identity" shooting.

One constituency that seems particularly prone to slaughter
are "grupero" musicians. In past months, five luminaries of this
raucous genre have bit the dust - the Sinaloa-based brothers
Valentin and "El Flaco" Elizande; Sergio Gomez, lead singer with K-
Paz in Michoacan; and Jose Luis Aquino, trumpeter with the popular
Oaxaca group "LosCondes." After being wounded during a performance
in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, grupero singer Zayda Pena was followed to
the local hospital and shot dead by her assailants.

Musicians are often paid handsomely to perform at private narco
fiestas or write "corridos" (border ballads) that portray the
kingpins as popular heroes, a strophe that sometimes earns the
disapproval of a capo or the enmity of a rival drug gang.

In northern states like Sinaloa where the narcos venerate their own
lay saint, Jesus Malverde, druglords like the infamous, long-
imprisoned Rafael Caro Quintero and the still very active Chapo
Guzman, both farm boys from the mountain town of Badiraguato, are
popular, Robin Hood-like figures. "(The government) wants to see
more money in Mexico but they don't understand that it's the narcos
who are keeping this country alive," one unsigned letter to the
daily "Debate of Sinaloa" read, "let them work - the only ones who
get hurt are the gringos. The narcos only hurt people who mess with

Mexico's drug cartels are structured along classic capitalist
models: they control the prime materials (Mexican cartels now plant
coca fields in Andean countries), processing, transportation, and
distribution. Each maintains a private army to open up new markets
and routes and protect old ones from encroachment.

At the top of the ladder is the Sinaloa or Pacific Cartel under the
thumb of Chapo Guzman, a drug baron who broke out of a maximum
security federal prison in 2001 and has not been seen since -
scuttlebutt persists that Chapo ("short guy") has been replaced by
another Sinaloa capo, "El Mayo" Zembrano.

The Pacific Cartel's chief rival for dominance is the Gulf Coast
syndicate operating out of northeastern Mexico, now headed by
Heriberto Lazcano, "El Lazcas", who took over the reigns from the
murderous Osiel Cardenas, extradited last year to the U.S. by
Calderon. Cardenas, in turn, replaced Juan Garcia Abrego when he was
extradited in the late 1990s. So long as demand for their product
thrives in the U.S., lopping off the heads of these organizations
seems, hydra-like, to only breed new heads.

Since Calderon took the helm of state in 2006, 88 Mexicans accused
of drug-related crimes in the U.S. have been shipped to El Norte to
the delight of his Washington masters. Next on the list for
extradition: Sandra Avila Beltran, "the Queen of the Pacific", whose
amorous adventures with the capos of Colombia's Valle del Norte
Cartel, are celebrated in song and story.

Also on the cartel menu:

The Tijuana Cartel controlled by the Arellano Felix family (also
Sinaloa boys), most of whose members are either incarcerated or
defunct. Although the gang is in serious decline, it still dominates
the liveliest crossing on the northern border and is thought to have
pioneered arrangements with Colombian cartels and the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, according to U.S. drug fighters.

The Juarez Cartel, which controls the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso
Texas "plaza" but is seriously challenged by rival drug combines for
this key border stronghold. The Juarez Cartel has lost much of its
clout since the death of the legendary Amado Carrillo, "the Lord of
the Skies" during cosmetic surgery at a private hospital less than a
mile away from the Mexican White House.

Other more regional cartels include:

The Colima Cartel under the direction of the Amezcua family, major
methamphetamine movers with an abiding interest in port facilities
at Manzanillo through which tons of cocaine and ephedrine pass each

The Michoacan or Millennium Cartel bossed by the Valencia family,
which controls vast opium poppy, and marijuana plantations in that
state's hot lands and shares an interest in shipping facilities at
Lazaro Cardenas, another noted Pacific cocaine port.

The Oaxaca Cartel run by the Diaz Parada family which has influence
in the south of the country and is strategically located between the
Guatemala border and the ports of Salina Cruz on the Pacific and
Coatzalcoalcos on the Gulf.

In June of 2007, the various cartels reportedly huddled on a narco
ranch in the state of Tamaulipas to smoke the peace pipe and come
together in a "federation" that would guarantee trade routes and
stabilize the industry - but judging by the kill rates, the
federation seems to be fracturing fast.

Recently, the five Beltran Leyva brothers, El Chapo Guzman's right-
hand men, purportedly broke ranks to form their own cartel. The
arrest of the "pez gordo" ("fat fish") Arturo Beltran Leyva, "El
Mochomo", in January proved a major score for Calderon. El Mochomo
was subsequently installed in the same maximum-security prison from
which his (former) boss Chapo Guzman walked away seven years ago.

Each of the cartels employs squadrons of enforcers to safeguard
transit routes and extract taxes from rival cartels moving their
loads through highly coveted turf. The most sanguineous of these
death squads, the notorious Zetas, was trained at the Center for
Special Forces in Fort Bragg, North Carolina as part of the drug-
fighting "Air-Mobile Special Force Group" or GAFE, and whom, upon
their return to Mexican soil, promptly signed on with the Gulf
Cartel as enforcers.

A new generation of Zetas, who popularized the sport of beheading
their enemies, continues to terrorize the border and Mexican drug
sleuths say the hit squad has evolved into its own cartel with
designs on the lucrative plaza of Nuevo Laredo, the high volume
commercial crossing on the east Texas border.

One of the more depressing downsides of Calderon's drug war has been
the infiltration and corruption of Mexico's underpaid military. In
2007, 17,000 troops deserted the Mexican armed forces. How many
joined the drug cartels which pay ten times what the army does, is
open to speculation. One of these defectors, former GAFE lieutenant
Jose Luis Ochoa, "El Ocho", put together a foiled plot to
assassinate the nation's topdog drug prosecutor Santiago Vasconcelos
this past Christmas. Inexplicably, once the plot had been uncovered,
President Calderon was immediately put under the protection of an
elite GAFE unit.

Among the Zetas' offspring are such colorfully named aggregations of
killers as "The Altruistic Anonymous Zyndicate" (Coahuila), "The
Tarascos" (Michoacan), "The Pelones" (The Baldies), "The Halcones"
(The Hawks - Mexico City), and FEDA ("Special Forces of Arturo" -
Beltran Leyva) who every 24 hours litter the streets of Culiacan,
Cancun, Acapulco and dozens of other Mexican cities with mutilated
cadavers and/or their heads.

But the northern border is where the drug war blows hottest. Despite
the depletion of much of the Arellano Felix clan, the family's
Tijuana operation continues to function under the rule of a sister,
Enadena and her nephew Jose "El Cholo" Brisenas, a narco who does
not disdain the spotlight. El Cholo recently competed in the famed
Baja California Road Race and was filmed by an in-house crew of
cartel members that crashed during the race, killing gang member
Luis Medrardo Leon, "El Abulon" (The Abalone), an historic hitman
implicated in the May 1994 whacking of Cardinal Juan de Jesus
Posadas at the Guadalajara airport during a shootout between the
Arellano Felix boys and then upstart Chapo Guzman.

The Cardinal's killing was attributed to a case of "mistaken
identity" although he was wearing a foot-long pectoral cross and was
shot at point-blank range.

The Abalone's body was subsequently kidnapped from the Ensenada Baja
California morgue by a 50-member narco commando. El Abulon's
untimely demise was followed by the arrest of another longtime
Tijuana cartel pistolero, "El Popeye" AKA Arturo Araujo, also
implicated in the Cardinal's death and a failed assassination
attempt on crusading Tijuana editor the late Jesus Blancornelas. The
Popeye, as was El Abulon, is a U.S. citizen, a member of the San
Diego Barrio Logan "Crazy 30s" hired on by the Arellanos during the
cartel's hay day back in the 1990s to do their dirty work.

Despite starring on wanted posters for a decade, El Popeye was
arrested in a middle class Tijuana subdivision where he had lived
tranquilly for years, perhaps protected by the badges of the three
police agencies found in his possession at the time of his arrest.

Tijuana's daily quotient of bloodshed overflowed January 15th when
three police chiefs were gunned down within four hours, one along
with his entire family. While memorial services were being conducted
several days later, a wild shootout between narcos and police
erupted not two miles away. Caught in the middle of the crossfire
were dozens of children at a local kindergarten "Mi Alegria" ("My
Happiness.") Front-page photos showed ski-masked troops rescuing the
toddlers while bullets ricocheted all around them - most papers
blacked out the children's faces for fear of retaliation by the drug

At the other end of the border on the Gulf where Calderon has sent
in 6000 of the 30,000 troops he has in the field, Tamaulipas looks
like "a war zone" in the words of New York Times correspondent James
McKinley. The state, which has traditionally been a kill zone where
Zetas battle both rival narcos and various corrupt police agencies
for control of the eastern end of the border, blew up in mid-January
with two full-bore gunfights on the dusty streets of Rio Bravo.
Combatants opened up on each other for hours with bazookas, grenade
launchers, and flamethrowers - a score of cops and robbers were
killed and wounded. Among the ten bad guys arrested were three
American hitmen, two of them from Detroit. According to the Mexican
federal Secretary of Public Safety, some of the weapons taken from
the narcos were traced to robberies at U.S. military bases.

The Mexican government estimates that 90% of the drug cartels'
arsenals originate in the U.S. and have demanded reciprocal action
on the part of their counterparts north of the border to tamp down
the trade. At the end of January, newly confirmed U.S. Attorney
General Michael Mukasey flew into Mexico City pledging to stem the
flow of heavy weaponry from the United States where enough guns are
in circulation to arm every citizen twice. Whether "Operation
Gunrunner" is anything more than a token U.S. gesture remains to be

The U.S. is arming both sides in Mexico's drug war. The drug gangs
are loaded to the teeth with arms smuggled across the border and to
balance this homicidal equation, Washington has produced "Plan
Mexico", a major build-up of Mexico's drug-fighting capacity, the
first phase of which will send a half billion dollars worth of used
Bell helicopters, armored vehicles, and computer systems south once
the appropriation clears congress.

Mexico's drug war is made in the U.S.A. Calderon takes his orders
from Washington and the U.S. is not only arming both sides but
sending in soldiers to fill out the ranks of both bands - the
Detroit hitmen vs. U.S. troops who are now authorized to wage war on
Mexican soil by the North American Agreement on Security and
Prosperity (ASPAN) signed by the three NAFTA counties in 2006 to
advance integration of their security apparatuses. Even more
pertinent to the U.S.'s central role in this war: the vast
quantities of drugs over which all this blood is being spilled, is
exclusively destined for U.S. consumers.

John Ross is in Mexico City. He can be reached at

In Case You Missed It

International Conference against Foreign Military Bases

10 novembre 2005

The delegates from 22 countries, gathered in Havana City for the II International Conference against Foreign Military Bases, summoned by the Cuban Movement for Peace and People's Sovereignty, during November 7-10, 2005, aware of the dangers that today's world confronts,


- The growing wave of violence and social injustice that causes multiple sufferings to the great majority of the world population, which is manifested in aggression wars, economic exploitation, different expressions of terrorism and damages to the natural environment, that have unleashed natural disasters in the last times with a balance of hundreds of thousands victims that also suffer from official neglect.

- The system of foreign military bases, especially those from the US imperialism, most of the time imposed on the governments and always against the will of their people and to the detriment of national sovereignty and self-determination.

- The imperialist offensive tactics of re-accommodation or redistribution of their military bases in the world, in the so-called arch of world instability (Third World), comprising the main oil reserves and other strategic resources.

- The current versions of the imperialist strategy that can end up creating unnecessary new military bases, based on the different manifestations of their military presence through new-type enclaves such as the use of ports and airports, advanced operative sites and cooperative security facilities.

- The disastrous policy of trying to fight terrorism through war and terror.

After a thorough analysis, convinced that humanity has never been so threatened and attacked as it is now,


- The use of imperialist military presence aiming at controlling large water, oil and biodiversity reserves.

- The strategy of the US domination based on the militarization of outer space and the antimissile defense.

- The constant aggressions to the natural environment derived from the imperialist military presence, damaging the ecological balance.

- The disrespect of some USA soldiers to human rights in different ways, such as the outrage towards population, the violence that millions of women and children are subjected to, in particular sexual violations and other crimes that are not sanctioned in the countries that suffer them, because of the immunity that the US soldiers have.

- The damage that the US military presence causes to social life in different areas of the planet: infant and youth prostitution, displacements of communities, negative impacts on the family, the terror of civil population in the presence of troop movements, siren sounds and others.

- The fact that the US imperialism has made of Guantánamo military base in Cuba an international jail and a torture center; tortures they also practice in other secret and illegal detention centers.

- The activity of the US South Commando in Latin America.

- The presence of the US military belt along the Amazon frontier.

- The presence of US soldiers in Paraguay, showing the plans to control the largest water reserves in the world and to change the Triple Border into the third area of military occupation.

- Manta Base as a complementary project of the Colombia Plan that, together with Aruba and Curazao bases, are spearheads of the aggressive project against Bolivarian Venezuela.

- The illegal presence of Guantánamo Base in Cuba, violating the rights and sovereignty of the Cuban people.

- The growing and illegal militarization of Japan and the use of Okinawa military bases to control Asia and the Pacific; representing a real threat to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China.

- The use of NATO as a police force of imperialism and in particular of the USA in their strategy to siege Russia and the People's Republic of China and to eliminate any possible uprising from the peoples of the member countries; under the disguise of safeguarding democracy, human rights, of fighting terrorism and of "humanitarian interventions".

- Every kind of aggressions carried out from USA military bases and NATO to Italy and in particular to the Sardinia Island, where the population's health, especially the children's health, is seriously damaged.

- The illegal occupation of Iraq.

- The constant violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.

- The growing military presence of USA in Africa with the objective, among others, of controlling mineral resources.

- The use of high financial budgets in the arms race that are diverged from the cooperation to sustainable development and to the fight against poverty.

Therefore, the participants in this Conference,


That, in the face of the changes in the world panorama and because of the new strategies of imperialist dominance to restrain the forces that fight for a better world in the whole planet, we reaffirm our decision to continue working systematically to stop and to eliminate the terror crusade that imperialism is carrying out under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In the presence of foreign military bases and the different forms of foreign military presence, we must strengthen the NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL BASES OF PEACE by increasing the efforts to achieve the unity of all the forces fighting for peace in the world. In order to fulfill this objective, we propose the implementation of an action plan that will take into account the following aspects:

- To mobilize all the forces fighting to make the possibility of a better world a reality so as to achieve the celebration of the World Day against Foreign Military Bases and Foreign Military Presence.

- To continue working in all the international forums we could attend, in order to denounce this criminal and genocide policy.

- To work in favor of the objective of strengthening the movement of world peace-fighters by enlarging and strengthening our links with related international organizations.

- To define strategies with a view to the Polycentric Forum of the WSF to be held in Caracas in 2006 and to launch their influence toward the polycentric forums in Africa and Asia, foreseen for January, 2006.

- To actively participate in the World Conference against Foreign Military Bases foreseen to take place in Ecuador on March, 2007.

- To work for the expansion of peace movements and for the elimination of foreign military presence, especially, NATO and United States Military Bases.

- To systematize the celebration of international events related to this issue.

- To maintain the banner of unity in a high position, so as to preserve sovereignty.

- To propitiate the formation of National Committees against foreign Military Bases in all the countries where the bases are located.

- To further the movement against Military Bases and foreign military presence in the Middle East with the participation of different forces, providing them a space in the international movements.

- To fight against the militarization projects of the outer space.

- To encourage the implementation of large social mobilizations against the imperialist strategy, similar to the ones that recently took place in Argentina and other countries of the region in protest against the Summit of the Americas and against the presence of the USA President.

- To continue the fight for the disarmament and for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

- To propitiate the dialogue among national organizations that fight for peace with the purpose of neutralizing border conflicts.

- To support the international campaign against the war in Iraq.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Reconsidering the U.S.-Mexico border -
In poetry and prognostication

'187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border'
You Tube Link by Juan Felipe Herrera
'Hyperborder' by Fernando Romero

February 17, 2008 By Josh Kun

The U.S.-Mexico border is a 2,000-mile geopolitical line that runs
from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, slicing through 10
states, two deserts, at least four different regional accents and at
least three different philosophies on how to cook meat, all while
changing shape from rivers to rocks to ranch fences to wooden posts
to menacing metal walls rigged with electronic sensors.

Yet the border has never been just a line on a map. CNN's Lou Dobbs
knows this as well as a Tijuana local who wakes up to the smell of
U.S. Border Patrol tear gas. It is a machine and a metaphor, a tool
and a scapegoat, an entire cosmology and, especially these days, a
political quagmire as laden with quicksand as the mention of a
Palestinian state at a Passover table. There's no way to talk about
it without getting lost in circuitous, maddening debate.

Take your pick: The border is a problem, its own country, a drug
funnel, a sun-baked cemetery, a desert DMZ. It is the death knell of
America or its promise. It is a scourge of crime and assassination
or the laboratory for Mexico's booming future. It is the leaden
footprint of America's imperial past or the front line of a Mexican

No wonder, says Mexico City architect Fernando Romero: It cuts
between the planet's leading immigration nation and its leading
emigration nation. Throw in a combined population of more than 12
million people (estimated to double by 2020), a million daily
crossings and as many as 20,000 Border Patrol agents by 2009, and
you have the makings of what Romero has dubbed the "hyperborder."

In his new book, "Hyperborder," Romero attempts to sidestep the
debates and lay out an accessible, and handy, gallery of tables,
charts, maps and photographs that illustrate the border region's
complexities and its impact on U.S. and Mexican life. For Romero,
the hyperborder emerged with the North American Free Trade
Agreement, the 1994 tornado that wreaked havoc on the rural Mexican
economy and left a flurry of problems in its wake: a dizzying
population boom, teetering infrastructures, scarce water supplies,
industrial pollution and drug-smuggling violence.

Romero's goal is not simply to document present conditions but also
to strategize for the future. He dreams up 38 prophecies in a
playful folio of fake news articles. Dry objectivity suddenly
becomes border science fiction: Mexico will be the capital of
nursing homes for Americans. It will feed a black market for water.
The United States, Canada and Mexico will form a union. The Silicon
Valley will be replaced by the Nano Valley in Baja California. The
most sought-after college graduates will come from "bi-cultural
universities." Speaking fluent Spanish will be a prerequisite for
the U.S. presidency in 2020.

Like all good science fiction, Romero's scenarios are born of
current realities, and for him -- despite massive inequities -- the
key reality is interdependence, so much so that "one nation's future
depends on the other," he argues. More Coca-Cola is consumed per
capita in Mexico than in any other country; money sent home from the
U.S. exceeds local incomes in five Mexican states, and Wal-Mart is
the largest private employer in both countries.

Romero's statistics could be lines from "Mexican Similarities,
Mexican Differences," a poem that opens Juan Felipe Herrera's "187
Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border," a ferocious collection of
the veteran Chicano poet and activist's work from the past 30
years. "You eat lettuce we irrigate lettuce," writes Herrera, who
spent most of his childhood traveling the fields of California with
his migrant worker parents. "You watch Oprah we watch Oprah."

These poems trade Romero's hyperborder for the human border,
splintering his headlines and policy reports into broken lines of
finger-snapped, conga-popped verse that reacts to the 2006 May Day
immigration march in downtown Los Angeles, the mounting murders of
women in Juarez and the thousands of "desert warriors" who've lost
their lives trying to cross the line, "so numerous they seemed /
like the desert itself / busted black the color of smoke."

Herrera crosses generations and borderlines, bouncing between
English and Spanish, between El Paso and Taos, Chiapas and Santa
Monica, San Diego and Tijuana. Whereas "Hyperborder" relies on
official data, "187 Reasons" is a dispatch from the people's border,
an anthology of a life lived by a "migrant homelander" with "a
triple landscape in my head."

Herrera's chapters open with free-form prose diaries he dubs
the "Aztlan Chronicles," quick autobiographical impressions set in
such places as a train stop in Riverside (where he now teaches at UC
Riverside) and San Francisco's Mission District (where he wrote
poems on an electric typewriter bought with a National Endowment for
the Arts grant). He muses on the impact of remittances. "It all
dawns on me," he confesses. "The migrante is the new double-headed
warrior like the Sacred Eagle Girl maiz deity of the Huichol-Tatéi
Werika Wimari -- a double-headed eagle, she refashions borders."
These are new maps we're living, and Herrera is our poetic
cartographer. And he positions his poems not as conventional texts,
but as illicit missives, "undocuments" that breeze by checkpoints as
fast as wired currency.

Herrera's take on the hyperborder has a different chronology; it
goes back to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the U.S.-Mexico war of
1846-48 and the Chicano movement of the 1960s (when Herrera tossed a
Molotov cocktail into a "no Zapatas allowed" UCLA frat house -- it
didn't go off). His poems cast the border as a story with ancient
echoes, overflowing with spilled blood ("blood in the border web,
the penal colony shed, in the bilingual yard") and erased memory (a
haunting chorus of "seed-voices").

He writes with a Beat-like torrent of sling-shots and trippy
hallucination, equally at home watching Chicanos in " Toyota gangsta
monsters" with "oye como va in the engines" as he is imagining
himself as a punk half-panther. More than once in "187 Reasons," his
poems read like border-blasted takes on Allen Ginsberg's epic
American spew, "Howl." Except Herrera's America is "a grid of
inverted serapes" where the best minds of his generation -- angel-
headed hipsters in Indian drum circles high on Thelonious Monk and
flush with "a Califas glow" -- have been driven mad by the
Minutemen, Proposition 187 and miles of new border fencing.

Because Herrera has worked so long in the trenches of border art and
politics, it's easy to imagine that his strategy for an
interdependent future would be a lot like his 1968 vision: "a
healing net across borders churned with brown clay, rain clouds,
open arms, yerbas, a single leaf from the eucalyptus for each one of
us. This is all you need. Breathe in, breathe out, this green wind
makes you strong." We all need to take a deep breath. It may not
heal the hyperborder, but our mingled breath will pass through it to
the other side. *


- What Is It They Stand For?

Americans traditionally thought of their country as a "city upon a hill," a "light unto the world." Today only the deluded think that. Polls show that the rest of the world regards the U.S. and Israel as the two greatest threats to peace.

This is not surprising. In the words of Arthur Silber:

"The Bush administration has announced to the world that this is what the United States stands for: a vicious determination to dominate the world, criminal, genocidal wars of aggression, torture, and an increasingly brutal and brutalizing authoritarian state at home. That is what we stand for."

Addressing his fellow Americans, Silber asks the paramount question: why do you support these horrors?

His question goes to the heart of the matter. Do Americans have any honour, any humanity, any integrity, any awareness of the crimes their government is committing in their name? Do they have a moral conscience?

How can a moral conscience be reconciled when they continue to tolerate a government which has invaded two countries on the basis of lies and deception, destroyed civilian infrastructures and murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children?

The killing and occupation continue even though Americans now know that the invasions were based on lies and fabricated "evidence." The entire world knows this. Yet they continue to act as if the gratuitous invasions, the gratuitous killing, and the gratuitous destruction are justified. There is no end of it in sight.

If Americans have any honour, how can they tolerate a government that claims immunity to law?

Answers to these questions vary. The people ask over and over, "What can we do?"

They can do very little when the freedom and independence of the watchdog press was destroyed by the media concentration that was permitted by the Clinton administration and Congress. Americans who rely on traditional print and TV media simply have no idea what is afoot.

Political competition failed when the opposition party became a "me-too" party. The Democrats even confirmed as attorney general Michael Mukasey, an authoritarian who refuses to condemn torture and whose rulings as a federal judge undermined habeas corpus. Such a person is now the highest law enforcement officer in the United States.

It failed again when the Democrats refused to impeach Bush and Cheney. Without the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, America can never recover. The precedents for unaccountable government are too great. Without impeachment, America will continue to sink into dictatorship.

Today Congress is almost as superfluous as the Roman Senate under the Caesars. On Feb. 13 the U.S. Senate barely passed a bill banning torture, and the White House promptly announced that President Bush would veto it. Torture is now officially the American way. The U.S. Senate was only able to muster 51 votes against torture, an indication that almost a majority of U.S. senators support torture.

Bush says that his administration does not torture. So why veto a bill prohibiting torture? Bush seems proud to present America to the world as a torturer.

USA is a country devoid of truth, morality, decency and honour. It is a blight upon the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Blow-up, Reconstruct

& Blow-up Again

By Layla Anwar
Source: ArabWomanBlues

A couple of Amerikkkan readers-- well they are not really readers, they are just blog spies/agents, whose objective is to monitor Iraqi blogs and report back to the Boss -- asked me to write about the Askari mosque's "reconstruction" in Samarra.

Prior to the Amerikkkan occupation, this mosque was NEVER the target of any "sectarian" strife. There was NO sectarian strife in Iraq prior to the Nazis's landing.

Once the Amerikkkans landed, and divided Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines, that mosque became the object of "terrorism" and was blown away in February 2006.

After that date, Iraq witnessed the bloodiest "sectarian violence" whose majority of victims were Sunnis.

From that day onward, the Iraqi Arab Sunni population dwindled down from 40% to 20%.
That same group is subjected to the most grotesque human rights violations -- detention with no trial, hideous torture by the Shia militias and the Amerikkkans, imprisonment in ghettoes, forced unemployment, deliberate impoverishement, staving off Sunni areas from any public services (health/water/electricity/garbage collection...) and pushing a majority of them into exile.

The female journalist from Al-Jazeerah, (Sunni/Iraqi - again I forgot her name - Abtar?), who covered this event, was found stripped naked and murdered - in a car. She, in fact, knew too much.

What she knew and they forbade her from airing, by taking her life away - was that those who blew up the Askari mosque were none other than American/Israeli operatives using local militias and of course blaming it on "Al-Qaeda."

Now, we're told they're reconstructing that mosque again. And I will not be suprised to find out that the reconstruction bid was offered to an American company. I suppose once done, the Amerikkkans, with their "Al-Qaeda" will blow it up again.

Then we will all brace ourselves for more "sectarian" violence, so the American/Israeli plan can be fully completed - the official partition of Iraq.

Failed Fascist States

By Pablo Ouziel

When Hermann Hesse warned of the rise of fascism in Germany he was rejected by a majority of the population. The truth is that most people were experiencing first hand the benefits of fascist ideology. Today we look at that part of our global history with shame, asking ourselves how something like Auschwitz could be allowed to happen. The problem is that while we identify it in our past, we are reluctant to acknowledge it happening in our present. During the rise of the short-lived Nazi empire, criticizing Hitler and his party to the average German civilian would have undoubtedly received strong rejection. Today the same holds true to critics of the mighty ‘democratic’ empire, built by the U.S. with the submissive support of its ‘client states’.

As human beings we can justify our current state of affairs by looking at the past and indulging in the illusion that things today are better than yesterday, but holding on to that thought will only guarantee, as the Spanish would say, ‘food for today and hunger for tomorrow’. Arrogance and ignorance brought down Nazism but the lesson was not learned. Sadly, we don’t seem prepared to adopt a higher level of communal existence amongst humans in terms of our geopolitical, social and economic relations. This in turn leaves initiatives such as the “Alliance of civilizations” proposed by the president of Spain, Rodriguez Zapatero, as idealistic and irrelevant slogans to be fed to those minorities actively engaged in civil disobedience against the harmful policies being implemented for the promotion of globalization.

This situation leaves us with just waiting time before fascist tendencies become even more apparent and a substantial part of this ‘global community’ decides to react against the oppressive forces. Either that, or like the Nazi’s, we keep pushing our ‘liberating ideals’ until the axis of power shifts and we are defeated. Either way, this period of history to which we all belong will undoubtedly remain recorded somewhere as the rise and fall of the American Empire. Like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, hundreds of years from now, anthropologists, historians, sociologists and tourists will wonder at how the thirst for dominance blinded such powerful and developed societies into their inevitable collapse.

However, what those from the future will observe has little consequence today. We are seeing all the signs but we are yet to rise against them in the hope of salvaging whatever dignity and wealth we might have left. Fundamental events are unraveling at such a fast pace that more than ever we need to be alert, we need to understand what is happening and refrain from fooling ourselves about the true state of human existence on earth. We need to know the facts and act, not preaching to the choir, but definitely acquiring a sense of unity in our militant opposition to those who have the reigns of humanity in their hands. We in the west need to understand that Bush isn’t the problem, for when he goes, events will unfold following the predetermined course outlined by those holding the wealth of our nations. Not many like to talk about revolution, because of the fear it will create instability and will ultimately be crushed, but we must begin to do so, because neither Obama, Hillary or McCain hold the key to a change of course in the empire’s stride.

I feel sad for those people from around the world who everyday pick up a newspaper to follow the news of the political candidates in the U.S. I understand their need to hope and regain excitement in the possibility of global change with the change of America’s president. These people ignore the reality for they dream of a ‘democracy’ that can exist parallel to a ‘fascist economy,’ something which in fact is an oxymoron. For years now I have been hearing a large proportion of the western intellectual community of both the right and the left rejecting the idea of social revolution. I realize that by this rejection they are serving the interests of the oppressing class, which has waged war on the outside and installed a police state within.

Until we understand that true democracy does not exist in the west, we will continue to be mocked into conflict between each other. The ‘establishment’ will continue to isolate us and separate us from the fight to our truly free existence. If one believes that Auschwitz was a consequence of the rise of fascism, it is certainly too late now to avoid Guantanamo, and all we can do is fight it. Fascism is here today because we allowed it to be here. Somehow a large proportion of the population is drawn to the grandeur of infallibility portrayed by fascist leadership. I say this because of the overwhelming facts that reveal its existence.

The true problem however, arises when we acknowledge that we live in failed fascist states. When that happens, the intellect is drawn to the question of what happens to our military might, our nuclear weapons, our economic wealth, or our social rights acquired by the arduous effort of millions of human beings. When we understand that we are living in failed states, we can objectively acknowledge the fears surrounding the eminent failure of Pakistan and reflect on those facing our own western reality. Our failed banking system which is losing billions of dollars a day, our debt ridden countries, our lost imperial wars against people who resisted more than we assumed. It is only within that context that we can observe the constant change of laws affecting our freedoms, such as the wiretapping of our phones or the copying of the hard-drive of our computers at airport security checks. This alone should serve to understand that the time has come for a social revolution. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough and I dread to think what will happen to our nuclear weapons and armies, when we do indeed collapse and acknowledge that we are in fact failed fascist states.

Pablo Ouziel is a sociologist and a freelance writer based in Spain.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Undermining Bolivia

Undermining Bolivia

By Benjamin Dangl, February 2008

A thick fence, surveillance cameras, and armed guards protect the U.S. Embassy in La Paz. The embassy is a tall, white building with narrow slits of windows that make it look like a military bunker. After passing through a security checkpoint, I sit down with U.S. Embassy spokesman Eric Watnik and ask if the embassy is working against the socialist government of Evo Morales. “Our cooperation in Bolivia is apolitical, transparent, and given directly to assist in the development of the country,” Watnik tells me. “It is given to benefit those who need it most.”

From the Bush Administration’s perspective, that turns out to mean Morales’s opponents. Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In July 2002, a declassified message from the U.S. embassy in Bolivia to Washington included the following message: “A planned USAID political party reform project aims at implementing an existing Bolivian law that would . . . over the long run, help build moderate, pro-democracy political parties that can serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS or its successors.” MAS refers to Morales’s party, which, in English, stands for Movement Toward Socialism.

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.

“USAID helps with the process of decentralization,” says Jose Carvallo, a press spokesperson for the main rightwing opposition political party, Democratic and Social Power. “They help with improving democracy in Bolivia through seminars and courses to discuss issues of autonomy.”

“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. Prada is sitting down in a crowded La Paz cafe and eating ice cream. His upper lip is black and blue from a beating he received at the hands of Morales’s opponents while Prada was working on the new constitutional assembly. “The ice cream is to lessen the swelling,” he explains. The Morales government organized this constitutional assembly to redistribute wealth from natural resources and guarantee broader access to education, land, water, gas, electricity, and health care for the country’s poor majority. I had seen Prada in the early days of the Morales administration. He was wearing an indigenous wiphala flag pin and happily chewing coca leaves in his government office. This time, he wasn’t as hopeful. He took another scoop of ice cream and continued: “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

In August 2007, Morales told a diplomatic gathering in La Paz, “I cannot understand how some ambassadors dedicate themselves to politics, and not diplomacy, in our country. . . . That is not called cooperation. That is called conspiracy.” Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that the U.S. Embassy was funding the government’s political opponents in an effort to develop “ideological and political resistance.” One example is USAID’s financing of Juan Carlos Urenda, an adviser to the rightwing Civic Committee, and author of the Autonomy Statute, a plan for Santa Cruz’s secession from Bolivia.

“There is absolutely no truth to any allegation that the U.S. is using its aid funds to try and influence the political process or in any way undermine the government,” says State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey. USAID officials point out that this support has gone to all Bolivian governors, not just those in the opposition. Despite Casey’s assertion, this funding has been controversial. On October 10, Bolivia’s supreme court approved a decree that prohibits international funding of activities in Bolivia without state regulation. One article in the law explains that Bolivia will not accept money with political or ideological strings attached.

In Bolivia, where much of the political muscle is in the streets with social organizations and unions, it’s not enough for Washington to work only at levels of high political power. They have to reach the grassroots as well. One USAID official told me by e-mail that the Office of Transition Initiatives “launched its Bolivia program to help reduce tensions in areas prone to social conflict (in particular El Alto) and to assist the country in preparing for upcoming electoral events.”

To find out how this played out on the ground, I meet with El Alto-based journalist Julio Mamani in the Regional Workers’ Center in his city, which neighbors La Paz.

“There was a lot of rebellious ideology and organizational power in El Alto in 2003,” Mamani explains, referring to the populist uprising that overthrew President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. “So USAID strengthened its presence in El Alto, and focused their funding and programs on developing youth leadership. Their style of leadership was not based on the radical demands of the city or the horizontal leadership styles of the unions. They wanted to push these new leaders away from the city’s unions and into hierarchical government positions.”

The USAID programs demobilized the youth. “USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

It was not hard to find other stories of what the U.S. government had been doing to influence economics and politics in Bolivia. Luis Gonzalez, an economics student at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, describes a panel he went to in 2006 that was organized by the Millennium Foundation. That year, this foundation received $155,738 from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) through the Center for International Private Enterprise, a nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Gonzalez, in glasses and a dark ponytail, described a panel that focused on criticizing state control of the gas industry (a major demand of social movements). “The panelists said that foreign investment and production in Bolivia will diminish if the gas remains under partial state control,” says Gonzalez. “They advocated privatization, corporate control, and pushed neoliberal policies.”

That same year, the NED funded another $110,134 to groups in Bolivia through the Center for International Private Enterprise to, according to NED documents, “provide information about the effects of proposed economic reforms to decision-makers involved in the Constituent Assembly.” According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by muckraker Jeremy Bigwood, the NED also funded programs that brought thirteen young “emerging leaders” from Bolivia to Washington between 2002 and 2004 to strengthen their rightwing political parties. The MAS, and other leftist parties, were not invited to these meetings.

The U.S. Embassy even appears to be using Fulbright scholars in its effort to undermine the Bolivian government. One Fulbright scholar in Bolivia, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that during recent orientation meetings at the embassy in La Paz, “a member of the U.S. Embassy’s security apparatus requested reports back to the embassy with detailed information if we should encounter any Venezuelans or Cubans in the field.” Both Venezuela and Cuba provide funding, doctors, and expertise to support their socialist ally Morales. The student adds that the embassy’s request “contradicts the Fulbright program’s guidelines, which prohibit us from interfering in politics or doing anything that would offend the host country.”

After finding out about the negative work the U.S. government was doing in Bolivia, I was curious to see one of the positive projects USAID officials touted so often. It took more than two weeks for them to get back to me—plenty of time, I thought, to choose the picture perfect example of their “apolitical” and development work organized “to benefit those who need it most.”

They put me in touch with Wilma Rocha, the boss at a clothing factory in El Alto called Club de Madres Nueva Esperanza (Mothers’ Club of New Hope). A USAID consultant worked in the factory in 2005-2006, offering advice on management issues and facilitating the export of the business’s clothing to U.S. markets. In a city of well-organized, working class radicals, Rocha is one of the few rightwingers. She is a fierce critic of the Morales administration and the El Alto unions and neighborhood councils.

Ten female employees are knitting at a table in the corner of a vast pink factory room full of dozens of empty sewing machines. “For three months we’ve barely had any work at all,” one of the women explains while Rocha waits at a distance. “When we do get paychecks, the pay is horrible.” I ask for her name, but she says she can’t give it to me. “If the boss finds out we are being critical, she’ll beat us.”

Benjamin Dangl is the author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia.” He received a 2007 Project Censored Award for his coverage of U.S. military operations in Paraguay.

London Bombs

Justify 'Torture', Says Bush

By Ewen MacAskill
Source The Guardian, February 15 2008

President George Bush cited the London July 7 bombings in an interview broadcast last night to justify his support for waterboarding, an interrogation technique widely regarded as torture.

In an interview with the BBC he said information obtained from alleged terrorists helped save lives, and the families of the July 7 victims would understand that. Bush said waterboarding, which simulates drowning, was not torture and is threatening to veto a congressional bill that would ban it.

In a wide-ranging interview, Bush:

· Defended the existence of Guantánamo Bay where many of those caught up in the US "war on terror" are held, and claimed that the US was a defender of human rights.

· Insisted the US still occupied the moral high ground worldwide.

· Stood by his decision to remove Saddam Hussein and claimed he would be vindicated as long as the US did not leave Iraq prematurely.

· Said he would attend the Beijing Olympics and that he had regular contact with the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, to urge him to do more on the issue of the genocide in the Sudanese province of Darfur.

The president was more forthcoming than normal in defence of his legacy, reflecting that he has less than a year to go in office.

But his most controversial remarks were over waterboarding. He told the BBC's Matt Frei: "To the critics, I ask them this: when we, within the law, interrogate and get information that protects ourselves and possibly others in other nations to prevent attacks, which attack would they have hoped that we wouldn't have prevented?

"And so, the United States will act within the law. We'll make sure professionals have the tools necessary to do their job within the law."

He claimed the families of victims of the July 7 terror attacks in London would understand his position. "I suspect the families of those victims understand the nature of killers. What people gotta understand is that we'll make decisions based upon law. We're a nation of law."

But Bush was undercut by a senior official in his administration who admitted yesterday, for the first time, that waterboarding is illegal. Stephen Bradbury, head of the justice department's office of legal counsel, giving evidence to a congressional committee, said: "Let me be clear, though: There has been no determination by the justice department that the use of waterboarding, under any circumstances, would be lawful under current law."

In the BBC interview, Bush was asked whether, given waterboarding and other alleged human rights abuses, he could claim the US still occupied the moral high ground. He replied: "Absolutely."

He added: "We believe in human rights and human dignity. We believe in the human condition. We believe in freedom. And we're willing to take the lead. We're willing to ask nations to do hard things. We're willing to accept responsibilities. And - yeah, no question in my mind, it's a nation that's a force for good.

"And history will judge the decisions made during this period of time as necessary decisions."

On Guantánamo Bay, where the US has held hundreds of prisoners for years without trial, he said he would "like it to be empty" but he was "comfortable with recognising this is still a dangerous world".

He said: "There's some people there that need to be tried. And there will be a trial. And they'll have their day in court. Unlike what they did to other people.

"Now, there's great concern about and I can understand this, that these people be given rights. They're not willing to grant the same rights to others. They'll murder. But, you gotta understand, they're getting rights. And I'm comfortable with the decisions we've made."

Commenting on at his legacy, he listed as pluses Afghanistan, Iraq and recognition of the right to Palestinians to their own state.

"You know, dealing with liberating 25 million in Afghanistan is part of what I hope people think of when they look at my presidency. Being the first president to propose a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine. I mean, there's a lot of other issues. And I'm happy with Iraq.

"The ... decision to move Saddam Hussein was right. And this democracy [in Iraq] is now taking root.

"And I'm confident that if America does not become isolationist - you know, and allow the terrorists to take back over, Iraq will succeed."

He was speaking in advance of a visit to Africa, though he threatened yesterday to delay it because of his confrontation with Congress over the issue of waterboarding. He urged China to do more to help resolve the Darfur crisis but said that he would still attend the Olympic Games in Beijing.

China is believed to have influence over the Sudanese government because it buys two-thirds of the country's oil exports while selling it weapons and defending it in the UN .

He also urged South Africa to play a greater role in confronting Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

America’s Blinders

By Howard Zinn
Source: The Progressive

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans—members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen—rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.

A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell’s presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his “evidence”: satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled “Irrefutable” and declared that after Powell’s talk “it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.”

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If we don’t know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don’t know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.

But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn’t that Mexico “shed American blood upon the American soil,” but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to “civilize” the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson—so often characterized in our history books as an “idealist”—lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to “make the world safe for democracy,” when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was “a military target.”

Everyone lied about Vietnam—Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991—hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq’s taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was “we the people” who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn’t talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, “Father of the Constitution,” said, thirty years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like “national interest,” “national security,” and “national defense” as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that—not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor—is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there—the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be “checks and balances”—do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief—no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general—that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to “pledge allegiance” (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with “liberty and justice for all.”

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” announcing that we are “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” There is also the unofficial national anthem “God Bless America,” and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation—just 5 percent of the world’s population—for his or her blessing.

If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values—democracy, liberty, and let’s not forget free enterprise—to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world. It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this “the American century,” saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right “to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.”

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was “the calling of our time.” Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: “The values you learned here . . . will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities.”

What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison—more than two million.

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.

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