Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Imperialism, Latin America, Right Wing, Uncategorized.
Tags: amy goodman, andres fishman, Brazil, brazil coup, brazil media, brazil right wing, bric, david miranda, dilma, fatima, glen greenwald, Lula, michel temer, nermeen shaikh, petrobras, roger hollander, rousseff impeachment, wikileaks, workers party
Roger’s note: here is an alternative view on the Brazil political crisis that you are not likely to see in the mainstream media. What is happening in Brazil is complex, but bottom line: a right wing US supported coup d’etat. After the Glen Greenwald interview on Democracy Now!, which foreshadows last weeks Impeachment against President Dilma Rouseff; an article outlining the not surprising evidence of US complicity unearthed by Wikileaks. Finally, the most recent interviews on Democracy Now!
Democracy Now!MARCH 24, 2016
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin in Brazil, which is facing its worst political crisis in over two decades as opponents of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff attempt to impeach her on corruption charges. But Rouseff is refusing calls to resign, saying the impeachment proceedings against her amount to undemocratic attempts by the right-wing opposition to oust her from power. On Wednesday, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff an attempted coup d’état. Lula, who was indicted last month on corruption charges, spoke Tuesday at a trade union event in São Paulo.
LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] The current attempt against Dilma is a coup. There’s no other word for it. It is a coup. And this country cannot accept a coup against Dilma. If there was one last thing I could do in my life, it would be to help Dilma turn this country around, with the decency that the Brazilian public deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, a judge suspended President Rousseff’s appointment of Lula da Silva to a Cabinet post. Rousseff says Lula will help strengthen her government, but critics see his appointment as a bid to protect him from what Lula says are politically motivated charges of money laundering. The judge who blocked Lula’s appointment had recently posted photos of himself on social media marching in an anti-government protest. Lula and President Rousseff are both members of the left-leaning Workers’ Party. On Tuesday, Brazil’s president, Rousseff, said she would not resign under any circumstances.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] Those who call me to resign show the fragility of their conviction of the process of impeachment, because, above all, they are trying to instate a coup d’état against our democracy. I can assure you that I will not cooperate with this. I will not resign for any reason whatsoever. … I have not committed any crime under the constitution and law to justify an interruption to my mandate. To condemn someone for a crime that they did not commit is the greatest violence that can be committed against any person. It is a brutal injustice. It is illegal. I was victim to this injustice once, under the dictatorship, and I fought to never be a victim again, under democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: In recent weeks, mass protests have occurred in Brazil calling for President Rousseff to resign.
PROTESTER: [translated] The people are tired. The people don’t want this president, this Workers’ Party, this gang in power, anymore, this gang which only steals and conceals its illicit actions. The people are tired. Lula deserves to be in jail. That’s what he deserves.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist based in Brazil. He’s been covering Brazil closely for The Intercept. His recent piece is headlined “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy.” In it, Glenn Greenwald writes, quote, “this is a campaign to subvert Brazil’s democratic outcomes by monied factions that have long hated the results of democratic elections, deceitfully marching under an anti-corruption banner: quite similar to the 1964 coup.”
In a moment, we’re going to be talking with Glenn Greenwald about the attacks in Brussels, as well as the presidential elections here in the United States and the battle between Apple and the U.S. government over encryption. But right now we’re starting with Brazil.
Glenn, there is very little attention in the United States in the mainstream media about what’s taking place in Brazil. President Obama is right next door in Argentina, but can you talk about what is happening in the country you live in, in Brazil?
GLENN GREENWALD: Definitely. It is a little odd that such extreme levels of political instability have received relatively little attention, given that Brazil is the fifth most populous country in the world, it’s the eighth largest economy, and whatever happens there will have reverberations for all sorts of markets and countries, including the United States. The situation in Brazil is actually fairly complicated, much more so than the small amount of media attention devoted to it in the U.S. has suggested. The media attention in the U.S. has suggested that it’s the people, by the millions, rising up against a corrupt government, and sort of depicting it as the heroic population against a corrupt left-wing, virtually tyrannical regime. And in a lot of ways, that’s an oversimplification; in a lot of ways, it’s simply inaccurate. So let me just make a couple of key points.
First of all, it is the case that the Brazilian political class and its—the highest levels of its economic class are rife with very radical corruption. That has been true for a really long time. And what has happened is that Brazil’s judicial institutions and police agencies have matured. Remember, Brazil is a very young democracy. It only exited military dictatorship in 1985. And so you finally have the maturation of these institutions applying the rule of law. And so, for the first time, political and economic elites are being held accountable for very serious political and economic corruption. The corruption is pervasive in essentially every influential political faction in Brazil, including all of its political parties. That includes the Workers’ Party, the left-wing party of Lula and Dilma, the current president, but also, even to a greater extent, the opposition parties on the center and the right that are trying to replace it. So corruption is very real. There is a very—there’s been a—what has been, until recently, an impressive judicial investigation that has resulted in the arrest and prosecution of some of the country’s richest and most powerful figures—something that you would never see in the United States—billionaires being hauled off to jail for bribery and money laundering and tax evasion and corruption, and sentenced to many years in prison. And virtually every political opponent of President Rousseff is implicated by this corruption, and many of the people in her party are, as well.
The irony of this widespread corruption is that President Rousseff herself is really the only significant politician, or one of the only significant politicians, in Brazil not to be implicated in any sort of corruption scheme for the—with the objective of personal enrichment. Everyone around her, virtually, including those trying to bring her government down and accuse her of corruption and impeach her, is implicated very seriously in schemes of corruption for personal enrichment. She’s essentially one of the only people who isn’t implicated that way.
The problem is that there—at the same time as you have this massive corruption investigation, you also have an extremely severe economic recession, as the result of lowering gas prices and contraction in China and a variety of other factors. And up until very recently, up until 2008, 2010, Brazil’s economy was booming. The people of that country, including its poorest, have been—thought that their prospects were finally improving, that the promise of Brazil, the long-heralded promise of Brazil, to become this developed power in the world was finally coming to fruition. Millions of people were being lifted out of poverty. And what this recession has done has been essentially to reverse all of that and to reimpose huge amounts of suffering, borne primarily by Brazil’s lower and working classes. And so there’s an enormous amount of discontent and anger towards President Rousseff and towards her Workers’ Party over the suffering that the people in Brazil are experiencing. And so, what you have is this corruption scheme and corruption investigation and scandal at the same time as great economic suffering.
And in Brazil, there are really rich and powerful factions, who have long hated Lula and Dilma and the left-wing Workers’ Party, who haven’t been able to defeat them at the ballot box. The Workers’ Party has won four straight national elections, going back to 2002 when Lula was first elected. And so, what they are doing—and they’re using their extremely powerful media institutions, beginning with Globo, which is by far and away the dominant, most powerful media institution in Brazil, run by, like all Brazil’s significant media outlets, extremely concentrated wealthy families—are using this corruption scandal to—or using the anger towards the government to try and rile up people and essentially remove the Workers’ Party and President Dilma Rousseff from power, really because they can’t beat her at the ballot box. But they’re trying to latch on this corruption scandal to the discontent that people feel because of the economic suffering. And so there is a validity to the corruption scandal and to the investigation, even aimed at the Workers’ Party, but at the same time what you’re now seeing is, unfortunately, the judiciary, which has been pretty scrupulous until now about being apolitical, working with the plutocrats of Brazil to try and achieve a result that really is a subversion of democracy, which is exploiting the scandal to remove President Rousseff from power through impeachment, even though there really are no grounds of impeachment that would be legal or valid as a means of removing her from office.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, one of the points that you make, Glenn, in that article is that—and I’m quoting you here—”Brazil’s extraordinary political upheaval shares some similarities with the Trump-led political chaos in the U.S.” Could you explain what you mean by that?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what I essentially mean by that is that in the U.S. there is political upheaval, in the sense that the political order has been largely overturned. The people who have been in control of and running the Republican Party, which are largely monied interests, have completely lost control of their political apparatus. They poured huge amounts of money first into Jeb Bush and then into Marco Rubio. And typically, those factions get their way. And in this particular instance, they haven’t. And you have this kind of political outsider who has been rejecting all kinds of political orthodoxies, breaking every political rule, who is looking closer and closer to becoming the nominee of the Republican Party and potentially, after that, the president of the United States, and has done so in a way that has unleashed all kinds of instability and very dangerous and dark sentiments in the United States.
In Brazil, the instability is far greater. I was just writing for an American audience, trying to get them to understand the level of instability by saying that, actually, what’s happening in Brazil is much greater in terms of the disruption than what’s happening as a result of Donald Trump’s successful candidacy, because it pervades almost every economic and political institution. And what you really see is this young democracy in Brazil that is now being threatened as a result of this really opportunistic and exploitative attack on the part of the country’s richest media outlets and richest factions to essentially undo the result of four consecutive democratic elections by trying to remove a democratically elected president—she was just re-elected in 2014—on totally fictitious grounds of pretext. And it’s really quite dangerous once you start, you know, sort of undermining the fundamentals of democracy in the way that’s currently taking place in Brazil.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, this is interesting that today President Obama is in Argentina, and it was Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, who won the Nobel Prize, Peace Prize, who said he welcomed Obama but thought that the American president should not be going to Argentina on March 24th, because that day, in 1976, 40 years ago, the military staged a coup. Human rights groups estimate something like 30,000 people were killed or disappeared in that coup that followed for the next seven or so years. Esquivel said, “I’m a survivor of that era, of the flights of death, of the torture, of the prisons, of the exiles. And,” he said, “when you analyze the situation in depth, the United States was responsible for the coups in Latin America.” What parallels, if any, do you see? And also talk about Petrobras and the role that it’s playing in all of this, the state oil company in Brazil.
GLENN GREENWALD: You can’t really understand Latin American politics, in general, and the ongoing instabilities and difficulties that almost every country in South America is still plagued by without talking about the central role that the United States has continuously played for decades in trying to control that part of the hemisphere.
In Brazil, like in so many countries, they had a democratically elected government in early 1960s, which the United States disliked because it was a left-wing government—not a communist government, but a left-wing government—that was devoted to the distribution of wealth for the social welfare, for opposing United States’ capitalistic interests and attempts to interfere in Brazil. And the Brazilian military, in 1964, staged a coup that overthrew that democratically elected government, and proceeded to impose on Brazil a really brutal military dictatorship that served the interests of the United States, was allied to the United States for the next 21 years. Of course, at the time, the United States government, U.S. officials, before Congress and in the public eye, vehemently denied that they played any role in that coup. And as happened so many times in the past, documents ultimately emerged years later that showed that not only was the U.S. supportive of that coup, but played a direct role in helping to plot it and plan it and stage it and then prop up that dictatorship for 21 years. That dictatorship used very extreme torture techniques on the nation’s dissidents, on the Brazilian citizens who were working to undermine that right-wing military dictatorship, among whom was the current president, Dilma Rousseff, who in the 1970s was a guerrilla, essentially, working against the U.S.-supported military dictatorship. She was detained and imprisoned without trial and then tortured rather severely. And the documents have revealed that it was the U.S. and the U.K. that actually taught the military leaders the best types of torture techniques to use.
And so, what you have now is not really a repeat of the 1964 coup. It’s not really responsible to say it’s identical to what’s taking place, because the impeachment against Dilma is proceeding under the constitution, which actually does provide for impeachment. There’s an independent judiciary that’s involved in the proceedings. But at the same time, if you go back and look at what happened in 1964 with that coup, the leading media outlets in Brazil, that also hated the left-wing government because it was against their oligarchical interests, justified and supported that coup. They depicted it as necessary to uproot corruption in this left-wing government. You had the same media factions—Globo, and the families who own it, and other media outlets that still persist to today—agitating in favor of the coup and then ultimately supporting the military dictatorship. And so you have similarities in terms of the anti-democratic processes at work that prevailed in 1964 and throughout Latin America in so many other years, where the United States was at the center of.
As far as Petrobras is concerned, Petrobras is the Brazilian-owned oil company, and it has become crucial to Brazil’s economic growth, because as oil prices increased and as Brazil found huge amounts of oil reserve, it was anticipated that Petrobras would essentially be the engine of Brazil’s future economic growth. And it started being drowned, essentially, in profits. And the scandal, the corruption scandal, has Petrobras at the center because it largely involves Petrobras paying bribes to various construction companies, that they would essentially hire private construction companies to build various platforms and other infrastructure for Petrobras for oil exploration, and they would essentially pay far more than what the contract really called for, and there would then be kickbacks to the head of the construction company, but also to Petrobras and to the politicians who control Petrobras. And that really is what this corruption scandal was triggered by, was the discovery of huge numbers, huge amounts—you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars in kickbacks and bribes to the politicians, in virtually every significant party in Brazil, that control Petrobras. Virtually nobody is unaffected by it. And the more they’ve investigated, the more people have turned state’s evidence, the more corruption has been discovered, to the point where even if you now do impeach Dilma, it’s almost impossible to envision somebody who could take her place who isn’t far more implicated in that corruption than she is.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Glenn Greenwald, we are going to break, and then, when we come back, we’re going to move from Brazil to Brussels, to the attacks there and the response by the U.S. presidential candidates. We’re talking to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept. And we’ll link to hispiece in this segment, “Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption—and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy.” We’ll be back with him in a moment.
WikiLeaks Reveal Brazil’s New Coup President Is ‘US Informant’
Senate-imposed President of Brazil Michel Temer met with U.S. Embassy staff on at least two occasions to brief them on the country’s politics.
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks described the Senate-imposed President of Brazil Michel Temer as a “U.S. Embassy informant” in a tweet and provided two links where Temer’s candid thoughts on Brazilian politics serve as the basis for a report by the U.S. embassy in Brazil.
The cable from Jan. 11, 2006, states that Temer met with embassy officials on Jan. 9, 2006 to give his assessment of Brazil’s political landscape ahead of the 2006 general election that saw Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reelected to the presidency.
UNASUR Head Says Rousseff Remains ‘Legitimate Leader’ of Brazil
Temer became interim president after the Brazilian Senate voted to proceed with an impeachment trial against President Dilma Rousseff, forcing her to step down for a period of 180 days.
Temer has been criticized for making clear his intention of pursuing a pro-business, neoliberal program as president, despite the fact that Rousseff and her Workers’ Party were reelected on the basis of a progressive program of social investment and wealth redistribution.
The leaked cable indicates that Temer has always held a neoliberal outlook.
“Temer criticized Lula’s narrow vision and his excessive focus on social safety net programs that don’t promote growth or economic development,” reads the cable from Jan 11, 2006.
The cable also reveals that in 2006 Temer’s party, the PMDB, was considering an alliance with both the leftist Workers’ Party and the right-wing PSDB.
The PMDB’s tendency to switch sides would later prove to be a critical element in efforts by Brazilian elites to oust Rousseff.
Despite having been elected vice president alongside Rousseff, Temer betrayed his former allies and joined in efforts to oust the president via impeachment.
A June 21, 2006 cable shows Temer held a second meeting with U.S. embassy staff to once again appraise them on the political situation in Brazil.
Coup Gov’t in Brazil to Implement Neoliberalism via Repression?
In that cable Temer laments the lack of power given to PMDB ministers during the Lula government.
“Temer spoke caustically of the Lula administration’s miserly rewards for its allies in the PMDB,” reads the cable.
Temer’s bitterness over being left out of Rousseff’s governance decisions was said to be one of the factors that motivated his eventual support for her impeachment.
With Rousseff Out, Brazil’s Interim President Installs Conservative All-White, All-Male Cabinet
Democracy Now! May 13, 2016
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin today’s show with the political turmoil engulfing Brazil. On Thursday, the country’s former vice president, Michel Temer, assumed power as interim president after the Senate voted to suspend President Dilma Rousseff and begin impeachment proceedings. She is accused of tampering with accounts in order to hide a budget shortfall. The 55-to-22 vote followed more than 20 hours of debate. One politician described it as, quote, “the saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.” Rousseff called it a coup. She gave a defiant speech before leaving the presidential palace, where she was greeted and hugged by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She vowed to fight the impeachment.
PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] It isn’t an impeachment; it’s a coup. I did not commit high crimes and misdemeanors. There is no justification for an impeachment charge. I don’t have bank accounts abroad. I never received bribes. I never condoned corruption. The trial against me is fragile, legally inconsistent, unjust, unleashed against an honest and innocent person. The greatest brutality that can be committed against any person is to punish them for a crime they did not commit. No injustice is more devastating than condemning an innocent. What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign desires of the Brazilian people and the Constitution. What is at stake are the achievements of the last 13 years.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Dilma Rousseff has been suspended for up to 180 days or until her Senate trial is concluded. Attorney General José Eduardo Cardozo called the Senate vote a, quote, “historic injustice.”
JOSÉ EDUARDO CARDOZO: [translated] An honest and innocent woman is, right at this moment, being condemned. A judicial pretense is being used to oust a legitimately elected president over acts which have been practiced by all previous governments. A historic injustice is being committed; an innocent person is being condemned.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The new interim president is not part of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, but a member of the opposition PMDB party. Temer has been implicated in Brazil’s massive corruption scandal involving state-owned oil company Petrobras. Several of his top advisers are also under investigation, and just last week he was ordered to pay a fine for violating campaign finance limits. After Thursday’s vote, he vowed to, quote, “restore respect” to Brazil’s government.
INTERIM PRESIDENT MICHEL TEMER: [translated] My first word to the Brazilian people is the word “trust”—trust in the values that form the character of our people, the vitality of our democracy; trust in the recuperation of our country’s economy, our country’s potential and its social and political institutions.
AMY GOODMAN: Michel Temer was sworn in Thursday along with a new Cabinet that is all white and all male, making this the first time since 1979 no women have been in the Cabinet. The New York Times reports Temer attempted to appoint a woman to oversee human rights policies, but faced blowback after it became clear she had voted in favor of legislation to make it difficult for women who are raped to get abortions. Temer also offered the Science Ministry to an evangelical pastor who does not believe in evolution, and, when he faced opposition, made him trade minister instead. On Thursday, dozens of women chained themselves to the gates of Brasília’s Planalto presidential palace to support suspended Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
FATIMA: [translated] The coup leaders in Brazil are trying to get President Dilma out and are usurping our democracy. They will only get us out of here by force, because we are defending democracy and the elected mandate for more than half of Brazilians.
AMY GOODMAN: All of this comes as Brazil is set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in early August, and parts of the country are facing a Zika outbreak.
For more, we go directly to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we’re joined by Andrew Fishman, a researcher and reporter for The Intercept, where he’s covered Brazil extensively along with his co-authors Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda.
Andrew Fishman, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about what’s happened.
ANDREW FISHMAN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: The president, or I should say at this point the suspended president, Dilma Rousseff, has called what’s happening in Brazil a coup.
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yes, there’s been a concerted action to remove her from office by the leaders of the opposition in Congress and also by the media. The current interim president, Michel Temer, was, before, her vice president. They ran together twice. And he was, until very recently, her ally. And so, she’s had very strong words against him for being one of the leaders to remove her from power. The Workers’ Party was—has been in power. They’ve won four straight elections. They had—they have great popular support, or they had, at least until recently, once the economy started going sour. And as is the case in basically any country, once the economy goes south, so does the approval rating of the president.
The opposition, seeing a chance to finally take advantage of this moment and get into—get into a position of power, decided that this is the moment, and they started pushing this case for impeachment, which, even though a lot of the coverage that you’ve seen, and especially down here in Brazil, has been based on corruption, corruption, corruption, and the corruption case in Petrobras, the state oil company, this has nothing to do with her corruption—with her impeachment proceedings. She’s being impeached on a technicality of some financial accounting measures, where she used some state-sponsored banks to cover some short-term deficits, which were all paid back in the end. Basically, any jurist says that this is not—does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, although the opposition has run with it. But in the discussion that they’ve had going forward, they’ve always focused on the impeachment angle—or, the corruption angle, because it’s much more powerful. And the Brazilian people are really fed up with corruption.
One thing that’s really noteworthy is that while the majority of the Brazilian population does support President Rousseff’s—or, former President Rousseff’s removal from office, the majority all support, in similar margin—want President Temer impeached, because they think that he’s also—that he is involved in corruption, unlike Dilma, where there’s no proof that she is. It’s very possible that she is involved and she knew about the schemes, but there’s no evidence to that nature, whereas there is much greater evidence that Temer and his allies are involved actively in corruption and illicit enrichment. Only 8 percent of the population wants Temer as president, which is shocking. In a most—in a recent poll, 2 percent of the population said that they would vote for him. If it weren’t for this impeachment, which they call a coup, it would have been impossible for someone like Michel Temer to become the president of Brazil.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Andrew Fishman, you mentioned that what Dilma Rousseff is charged with is not in fact an impeachable offense, and many jurists agree on that. So how is it that she’s been impeached?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah, and, of course, I mean, there are people—there are jurists aligned with the opposition that say that it certainly is, it certainly does rise to the level. But, you know, international observers far and wide, from international organizations to the press, to diplomats, to a Nobel Peace Prize winner in Argentina who fought against the military dictatorship there, have all agreed that this is not an impeachable offense, and therefore some call it a coup. Others say, at the very least, it is certainly an antidemocratic, undemocratic action to remove her from power.
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday, Marcelo Ninio, from the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, questioned U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau about the situation in Brazil.
MARCELO NINIO: I wanted to ask about Brazil first. It’s—what the State Department and the U.S. government expect about the relationship with the interim government? And has there been any communication yet with the new government?
ELIZABETH TRUDEAU: Well, I can’t speak to our embassy communication there. You know, as you know, we maintain a strong bilateral relationship between our two countries. As the two largest democracies in the hemisphere, Brazil and the United States are committed partners. You know, we cooperate with Brazil on a number of issues—you know, trade, security, environment. We expect that’ll continue.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the U.S. State Department, Andrew Fishman. And Pravda, an article in Pravda, explained that over the last few years the BRICS nations—you know, that’s Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—have become a significant geopolitical threat to the interests of the United States. And again, this is Pravda, the Russian paper, said it’s quite possible the CIA is involved in the plan to stage riots in Brazil nationwide, that U.S. intelligence agencies are involved with this coup. Is there any evidence of this?
ANDREW FISHMAN: I mean, there has been plenty of speculation about this. Obviously, the CIA operates in secrecy, so it’s difficult to say one way or another. Dilma herself has said that there’s absolutely no proof to that nature. I have not seen anything that convinces me that that’s the case. Again, who knows what the actual situation is?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Andrew Fishman, even though—
ANDREW FISHMAN: But also, the State Department spokesman also said that she’s not sure if the—if anyone from the United States has reached out to President Temer to congratulate him. They referred to the White House. Josh Earnest, the spokesperson for the White House, then said, “You should speak to the State Department.” So it’s not clear that even any foreign leaders have gone out to congratulate President Temer, although the statement that the State Department spokesman made, saying that they believe that Brazil will continue to function within democratic means and the democratic systems and will be strengthened, it’s a tacit show of support. I mean, they haven’t come out strongly one way or another in public saying that they’re for or against impeachment, because really that’s—the implication of that would be so strong. It would be—if it were in fact that the United States wanted this, wanted the Temer administration above Dilma’s administration—and I believe that is the case, that they much prefer, as the foreign investors much prefer, having Temer—at least that’s what they’ve shown, based on his statements. Just making that statement that—reaffirming the democratic nature of this movement, which is clearly antidemocratic, that says a lot, even though it’s done quite in diplomatic terms.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Dilma Rousseff’s suspension is temporary, but some are saying that it seems all but certain that she’ll be permanently removed from office. Is that correct?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah. It would take some sort of miracle or massive change in the political landscape for her not to be—for the vote to not go through. You need a two-thirds vote in the Senate for her to be impeached after the trial. They already had that number, and then a few more, voting for the—this initial vote the other day. So, I mean, unless something massive were to change, it seems quite clear.
And the—I mean, the only people that could really intervene right now would be the Supreme Court. They’ve shown that they also prefer the Temer presidency. They want this. They think that Temer is the quickest path to resolve the political crisis and to move forward from the chaos that’s currently going on. And they’ve said—they said so quite explicitly in some statements that they’ve given to the press, which, as an American coming from the U.S. context, where at least the Supreme Court in the United States tries to maintain the appearance of impartiality in maintaining pure judicial decisions, in this case they’ve made statements that show that they’re making very political calculations in their decisions, as has the prosecutor general.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Andrew, about an article by Greg Grandin about who’s profiting from this coup, as Dilma Rousseff has called it. Grandin wrote in The Nation, a piece that was headlined, “A Slavers’ Coup in Brazil?: Among the many groups pushing for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, one is seldom discussed: companies that profit from slavery.” In the article, Grandin notes Rousseff’s Workers’ Party creates a—created a “dirty list” of “hundreds of companies and individual employers who were investigated by labor prosecutors and found to be using slaves.” Grandin goes on to write that one of the members of the opposition that’s pushed for Rousseff’s impeachment directly profits from slave labor. According to Grandin, Congressman Beto Mansur is, quote, “charged with keeping 46 workers at his soybean farms in Goiás State in conditions so deplorable that investigators say the laborers were treated like modern-day slaves.” Andrew Fishman, what business interests have aligned themselves against Dilma Rousseff? And what about this congressman?
ANDREW FISHMAN: Yeah, and going one step further even, I mean, Greg’s article was about a week ago, and just yesterday, President Temer installed his Cabinet, his ministers. The agricultural minister is a massive soybean farmer who has huge tracts of land, they’ve—responsible for massive deforestation, and he’s been personally linked to slavery. His time in Congress, he actually introduced a bill to try and limit the definition of what slavery actually is, to try and help himself and his partners and his business interests. Slavery is a massive problem in Brazil. Brazil has plenty of social problems. This, slavery, is obviously one that should not exist in the modern world; however, it clearly does here and around the world. If you go out into the interior of the country, which is massive tracts of wilderness, it’s basically wild, wild West out there. There’s very little law. Journalists, activists, anyone who tries to push back against these massive corporate interests, who have benefited greatly under the PT government time in the last 10, 12 years, they are all—they’re all able to use this sort of slavery, because they have no—there’s basically no rule of law to stop them from doing so.
So, yeah, the massive agribusiness has aligned themselves against Dilma and have actually said that they want—wanted her to be impeached, as has big industrialist groups and as has the media, which is also a huge industry here, obviously. But all these groups benefited greatly under President Rousseff and President Lula da Silva. Just last year, they’ve had hundreds of millions of reais, you know, over the time—hundreds and billions of dollars in subsidies that have gone to these groups and these industries, and they’ve gotten really rich off of it, much more money than has gone to the social distribution programs, which President Temer has now indicated that he probably will be cutting or reducing. So, it’s an interesting moment. I think that they never really were entirely aligned with the PT, but it was a pact of political convenience: They saw a way to get a deal, a way to get their interests met. Now that the economy has gone down slightly and her popularity has gone down dramatically, it seemed like a good opportunity for them to push back with their more conventional allies, which are the PSDB and the PMDB.
AMY GOODMAN: Andrew Fishman, thanks for joining us, researcher, reporter for The Intercept, has covered Brazil extensively, along with Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda, speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Energy, Environment, Latin America, Uncategorized.
Tags: amazon, amazon rainforest, climate change, Ecuador, ecuador oil, environment, fossil fuel, global warming, Rafael Correa, rainforest, roger hollander
Roger’s note: Like all so-called leftist governments, with virtually no exceptions (Chile under Allende, and we saw what happened there), as stewards of the capitalist state they supposedly rule, it becomes expedient if not necessary, to move to the right, which means to accommodate the basic needs of capital. In the case of Correa’s Ecuador, the proposed destruction, ecological and cultural, of the rain-forest, is justified as an anti-poverty endeavor. In the face of falling oil prices, it is virtually a suicidal move (for the country, if not for the ruling elite). Exchanging US (IMF/World Bank) debt for Chinese debt will ensure the impoverization of the county in the long run. This while contributing to global warming and the possible of genocide of the self-imposed isolated indigenous tribes in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Last week, the Ecuadorian government announced that it had begun constructing the first of a planned 276 wells, ten drilling platforms, and multiple related pipelines and production facilities in the ITT (Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini) oil field, known as Block 43, which overlaps Yasuní National Park in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Coupled with the recent signing of two new oil concessions on the southern border of Yasuní and plans to launch another oil lease auction for additional blocks in the country’s southern Amazon in late 2016, the slated drilling frenzy is part of a larger, aggressive move for new oil exploration as the country faces daunting oil-backed loan payments to China, its largest creditor.
Yasuní National Park is widely considered one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It has more species per hectare of trees, shrubs, insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals than anywhere else in the world. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989, and it is home to the Tagaeri-Taromenane, Ecuador’s last indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation.
The controversial drilling plans were met with protest at the headquarters of state-run Petroamazonas’ Quito office, the company charged with developing the field. Ecuador averaged a spill per week between 2000 and 2010, which doesn’t bode well for drilling in a national park.
Despite touting the new perforation, the government is on the defensive, trying to downplay impact on the park. It points to the fact that the well site, Tiputini C, is technically outside of Yasuní’s limits. But, as the first wildcat well of hundreds planned, the government’s rhetoric is misleading at best.
Correa also boldly claimed that drilling in the adjacent Block 31 concession was not inside the boundary of Yasuní National Park, which was followed by a press conference from Environmental Minister Daniel Ortega who reiterated that claim. But activists are crying foul.
“The government is lying,” said Patricio Chavez, a member of Yasunídos, a national collective dedicated to defend Yasuní National Park. “They have no idea what they’re talking about. We’re not sure whether they make these statements because they honestly don’t know their own country or they’re trying to intentionally confuse people.”
In fact, Block 31 is in the heart of Yasuní National Park, with the two oil fields clearly in the middle of the block. The Ministry of Hydrocarbons’ own map shows a pipeline extending to the Apaika field – in the middle of the block and the heart of the park.
Conveniently for the government, though, both Block 31 and Block 43 are highly militarized and entrance by the public is forbidden. But satellite images and investigative undercover missions into the area not only show oil activity underway but also the construction of illegal roads in violation of the environmental license.
But don’t be fooled. In fact, there are currently eight oil blocks that overlap Yasuní National Park, which calls into question the relevance of its “national park” status with so much drilling either underway or planned.
“The park and its indigenous peoples are under siege,” said Leo Cerda, a Kichwa youth leader and Amazon Watch Field Coordinator. “If this is how a national park is treated, imagine what drilling in an ‘unprotected’ area looks like.”
Expanding drilling activity in the park has left the nomadic Tagaeri-Taromenane virtually surrounded. Recent conflicts between the two clans and their Waorani relatives has led to several killings and other inter-ethnic violence. While there are different theories as to the roots of the confrontations, dwindling territory, scarce resources, noise from oil activity, and encroachment by outsiders are all likely factors. Regardless, so much pressure on the park and its inhabitants is having predictable and tragic consequences.
The drilling plans have been a flashpoint since 2013 when President Rafael Correa pulled the plug on the Yasuní-ITT initiative, a proposal to permanently keep the ITT fields – an estimated 920 million barrels of oil – in the ground in exchange for international contributions equaling half of Ecuador’s forfeited revenue.
The initiative failed to attract funds, in part because Annex I countries were unwilling to contribute to an untested supply-side proposal to keep fossil fuels in the ground instead of more traditional demand-side regulations and carbon offsets. Essentially, northern countries – the most responsible for climate change – were unwilling to cough up cash to protect one of the world’s most important places if they weren’t going to get anything in exchange.
Scientists now agree that we need to keep at least 80 percent of all fossil fuels in the ground to avoid a catastrophic 1.5℃ rise in global temperature, so Ecuador’s proposal was apparently ahead of its time. The world dropped the ball, but the blame for the initiative’s stillbirth is shared.
The Correa administration mismanaged the initiative from the outset. It took several years to establish a trust fund where people and governments could contribute. But more detrimental was the administration’s simultaneous tender of multiple oil blocks in the country’s southern Amazon. Why pay to keep oil in the ground in one place if the host country government merely opens up new areas to compensate for lost revenue? Correa’s have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too politics were not very convincing to potential donors.
Public outrage and protest met Correa’s unilateral decision to scrap the initiative. A six-month national mobilization to force a ballot initiative on drilling plans garnered over 700,000 signatures, far more than the required 400,000. But almost half were nullified by Ecuador National Election Council in a process littered with secrecy and fraud.
“When the Yasuní-ITT initiative was launched, the idea was that leaving the oil in the ground would help address environmental and economic problems on the local, national, and global level,” said Esperanza Martinez, President of Ecuador’s Accion Ecologica and founder of the Oilwatch network. “The abandonment of the initiative has come with an aggressive push on Yasuní – on its borders to the north, south, east, and west. But the decision to drill now comes at a time when the world is talking about breaking free of fossil fuel dependence and agreeing on targets to avoid the rise of global temperature.”
Martinez continued, “It makes no sense to drill now – at great biological and cultural risk – when economically Ecuador is losing money with each barrel extracted. There is no justification that drilling in Yasuní is in the economic interest of the country.”
Indeed, it costs Ecuador $39 to produce a barrel of oil. But current market price for its two types of crude are in the low $30s, so Ecuador is losing money on each barrel being pulled from the ground. And when the aboveground ecosystem is one of the most important in the world and drilling activities threaten the ethnocide of isolated peoples, drilling at a loss is bewildering. Of course, there is no price per barrel that would justify drilling in such an environmentally pristine and culturally sensitive area with the extinction of a people at risk.
A major factor in Ecuador’s drive to expand drilling in Yasuní and beyond, despite the current oil market context of abundant and cheap oil, is the country’s outstanding debt to China. According to a Boston University/Inter-American Dialogue Database, Ecuador has obtained 11 loans, totalling about $15.2 billion, much of which must be paid back with petroleum.
But the move into Yasuní coincides with an equally aggressive push to open new areas south of Yasuní in a large, roadless pristine swath of forest that extends out to the Peruvian border.
Two blocks, 79 and 83, were recently concessioned, and drilling deals were signed with Andes Petroleum, a Chinese state-run firm. Faced with adamant opposition from both the Sápara and Kichwa peoples whose legally-titled territory overlaps these oil blocks, the government has sought to divide the indigenous communities.
Speaking at an Inter-American Human Rights Commission hearing on Monday, Franco Viteri, President of CONFENAIE (Confederation of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples of Ecuador), described efforts of the government to divide the legitimate indigenous organizations with the aim of circumventing resistance to resource extraction and advancing Andes Petroleum’s drilling plans.
“The objective of the government is to create acceptance – or the appearance of acceptance – of resource extraction. That’s what the government wants because we are resisting resource extraction projects like oil and mining throughout the Amazon region.”
Manari Ushigua, President of the Sápara federation, whose territory is almost totally engulfed by Blocks 79 and 83, also addressed the government’s intentions.
“The goal of the Ecuadorian government is to divide us and open our land to oil extraction. We live in peace, with the natural world, with our spirits. But our elders are few. We are on the verge of extinction.”
The government has also announced plans to launch a new oil licensing round in late 2016 which would sell off several other oil blocks in Ecuador’s southern Amazon. However, the last auction, known as the 11th Round, was a widely recognized failure. Offering thirteen blocks, the government only received four bids, two of those from the same company – Andes. Clearly, the Chinese state-run firm wants to make sure that its sole shareholder, the Chinese government, gets paid back for its generous lending to Ecuador. And because the payments are in oil, it explains why Ecuador is forced to expand drilling, even if it’s at a loss. China can then turn around and sell the barrels of oil in the open market for a substantial profit.
Ecuador’s new oil boom is ill-timed. While several years ago the country was the vanguard of what is now a worldwide movement to #keepitintheground, Correa’s “Drill, baby, drill!” policies place its frontier forests and indigenous peoples at great risk. As I’ve written before, Ecuador’s pipe dream of prosperity from perforating wells like ITT have failed to pan out, instead trapping the country in a downward spiral of debt, dependency, and environmental destruction.
However, the movement to #keepitintheground in Ecuador is growing. Ecuador’s 11th Oil Round failed mostly because communities on the ground vowed resistance and indigenous leaders traveled to every oil expo at which the government sought to sell its Amazon oil blocks to the highest bidders – including Quito, Houston, Paris, and Calgary – and let any interested company or investor know that their lands were not for sale. Indigenous peoples across Ecuador’s Amazon have again vowed to keep the companies out and they are asking for our solidarity. Let’s join them!
Posted by rogerhollander in Genocide, Guatemala, Latin America, Torture, Uncategorized.
Tags: genocide, guatemala, jimmy morales, Latin America, roger hollander, School of the Americas, soa watch, torture
Roger’s note: another contribution to my series entitled “Your Tax Dollars at Work.”
Last week, eighteen former military officials were arrested on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in one of the largest mass arrests of military officers Latin America has ever seen. Twelve of them were trained at the SOA. The arrests happened one week before the January 14th inauguration of newly elected President Jimmy Morales, of the National Convergence Front (FCN).
Morales, whose party has close ties to the military, faces pressure in the face of the current developments. Morales’ right hand man, Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, who is also the FCN party co-founder, newly elected congressman, and retired colonel, is also facing similar charges, though he was not arrested because of his immunity as a congressman. Guatemala’s Attorney General, however, has requested the Supreme Court look at the case to strip him of his immunity. Ovalle Maldonado, who is also an SOA graduate, is linked to massacres and disappearances during the 1980’s.
The officers arrested last week are (see below for a list of notorious SOA graduates among those recently arrested):
- Ismael Segura Abularach (SOA, 1976)
- Pablo Roberto Saucedo Mérida (SOA, 1970)
- César Augusto Ruiz Morales (SOA, 1970)
- Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas (SOA, 1962 & 1970)
- Colonel Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez (SOA, 1961)
- Carlos Humberto López Rodríguez (SOA, 1970)
- Edilberto Letona Linares (SOA; 1970)
- José Antonio Vásquez García (SOA, 1970)
- Manuel Benedicto Lucas García (SOA, 1965)
- Carlos Augusto Garavito Morán (SOA, 1984)
- Luis Alberto Paredes Nájera (SOA, 1960)
- César Augusto Cabrera Mejía (SOA, 1967)
- Juan Ovalle Salazar
- Gustavo Alonzo Rosales García
- Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas
- Raul Dahesa Oliva
- Edgar Rolando Hernández Méndez
The arrests are linked to two cases in particular, both of which have gone before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The first case concerns the operations that occurred at the military base in Cobán. In 2012, exhumations by forensic anthropologists led to the uncovering of at least 550 victims disappeared between 1981 and 1988. The second is for the disappearance of Marco Antonio Molina Theissen, a 14-year-old boy disappeared by the G-2 military intelligence forces on October 6, 1981.
A pretrial held before a District Court this week in the case of the disappearance of Marco Antonio determined that four of the former military officers accused – three of whom are SOA graduates – will go to trial, facing charges of forced disappearance and crimes against humanity. The retired officers – Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, Edilberto Letona Linares, Hugo Ramiro Zaldaña Rojas, and Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas – remain in custody pending ongoing investigations by the public prosecutors.
It remains to be seen if newly sworn-in Morales, whose party is backed by the darkest structures of the Guatemalan military, will allow for these cases to run their course. The struggle for justice in Guatemala is still as much a challenge today as it was in the past. Given the recent mass mobilizations that brought down the former President and SOA-graduate Otto Pérez Molina and his Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, Morales faces a citizenry that has lost much of the fear that created a culture of silence. In a recent National Catholic Reporter article, Fr. Roy Bourgeois stated that “there will never be any justice or reconciliation until there is accountability and the perpetrators start going to prison”. The people of Guatemala are hungry for justice, and they have memory on their side.
Lessons for the U.S.
History has shown us that we cannot count on the government to hold itself accountable. We know from experience that the power we need to makes the changes we so desperately need will come from us, the grassroots. Vice-President Biden, who attended President Morales’ inauguration, also had a meeting with the northern triangle Presidents yesterday regarding the ill-named Alliance for Prosperity, which supposedly addresses the root causes of migration. This conversation comes at the same time that ICE is carrying out raids and deporting Central American refugees that have fled US-sponsored state violence. Instead of actually addressing the root causes of migration by changing its destructive foreign policy in Central America, the U.S. continues to create the conditions that make people flee their home countries through violence and economic exploitation. This was the case during the dirty wars of the 1980’s, and unfortunately it is the case now.
There is no question that there was absolute complicity by the U.S. during the 36-year-long armed conflict that marked Guatemala for generations to come. For Guatemalans, this is a decades-long struggle to break down the wall of impunity and the culture of silence and fear, and the steps being taken by surivors to bring cases forward have been nothing short of brave and courageous. For the U.S., what has unraveled over the past few days serves as a sobering reminder that the U.S. fully backed – covertly, directly and indirectly – the Guatemalan military through training, funding, adivising and equipping. Bill Clinton’s “apology” was clearly not enough. As Guatemala continues to seek truth, justice and accountability, shouldn’t the U.S. think about doing the same, and holding it’s officials accountable?
SOA Watch maintains that in order for there to truly be justice, those responsible in the U.S. for the training and funding one of Latin America’s most brutal conflicts must be held to account in any and all courts applicable, whether they be domestic, regional or foreign. The U.S. doesn’t have to look to far to see that lessons on justice and accountability can be learned through what is happening throughout Latin America.
General Manuel Antonio Callejas Callejas – 1988 SOA Hall of Fame graduate who attended the Command and General Staff College in 1970. As former head of intelligence, he was responsible for the assassinations that occurred under former dictator General Fernando Romeo Lucas García, also an SOA graduate. He later became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces under President Vinicio Cerezo. In 2002, the U.S. revoked his visa due to suspected ties to human rights violations, narcotrafficking and organized crime.
Colonel Fransisco Luis Gordillo Martínez – Attended the Command and General Staff College, as well as Infantry and Weapons courses in 1961. Gordillo was part of the violent 1982 coup that brought SOA graduate and former dictator, General José Efraín Ríos Montt to power.
General Manuel Benedicto Lucas García – Head of the military under former dictator and brother, General Fernando Romeo Lucas García, he attended the Command and General Staff College in 1970, as well as the Combat Intelligence course in 1965. According to the Archdiocese truth commission report Guatemala, Nunca Más, he masterminded the creation of the Civil Defense Patrols (PACs).
Ismael Segura Abularach – Attended the Advanced Infantry Officer course in 1976, and was commander of the special forces that forced disappeared Maya guerrilla leader Efrain Bámaca to guide army patrols in their search for guerrilla arms caches.
Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Health, Latin America, Religion, Women.
Tags: abortion, abortion laws, El Salvador, el salvador miscarriages, feminization of poverty, Latin America, patriarchy, pope francis, poverty, roger hollander, roman catholic, roy bourgeois, soa watch, Vatican, women
Roger’s note: The “radical” pope drew a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, that is nearly 10% of Ecuador’s population. Following this article on the persecution of women in El Salvador I have posted a critique of the hypocritical plea to end poverty at the same time as defending the Church’s misogynist ideology. My take on the RC Church, this anonymous quote: “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”
For Immediate Release
July 6, 2015
Washington DC – Four activists will stand trial on July 7, 2015 at 9:30 am in front of Judge Susan Holmes-Winfield (Case# 2015CMD005708) on the charge of unlawful entry, which carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison. The four were arrested on April 24, 2015 at the Embassy of El Salvador where they staged a sit-in to call attention to a group of Salvadoran women currently serving extreme 30-year prison sentences for having had miscarriages. Protesters included Father Roy Bourgeois, founder of Latin America solidarity organization School of the Americas Watch; Ed Kinane, of Syracuse, NY, retired educator and nonviolent peace activist; John Honeck, a counselor and activist from Hamlin, NY; and Paki Wieland, of Northampton, MA, longtime peace and justice activist and member of the Raging Grannies. The group delivered a letter to the embassy to express their solidarity and to seek the release of the 17 women. Julienne Oldfield of Syracuse, NY, and Palma Ryan of Cliff Island, ME, also participated in the sit-in.
“The 17,” as they are now known in the global movement advocating their release, are 17 women in El Salvador serving decades in prison for having had miscarriages. A country with deeply conservative abortion laws, El Salvador has convicted these 17 and charged as many as five more. According to Amnesty International, the charges are for aggravated homicide and receiving illegal abortions, though there is little to no evidence as to the causes of their miscarriages. Cristina Quintanilla, sentenced to 30 years after she had a miscarriage, was released in 2014 by a court, which commuted her sentence to three years, amounting to time served. Carmen Guadalupe Vásquez Aldana made international headlines earlier this year as one of the 17 to be released. (El Salvador and ‘Las 17’, New York Times).
Mirian, Martiza, Marina, Salvadora, Ena,Teodora, Guadalupe, Mariana, Mirna, Cinthia, Verónica, Alba, Johana, Evelyn, Teresa, and María make up the remainder of The 17. Many are mothers of young children, and all have many more years to serve under their current sentences.
“This is a grave injustice. Where there is injustice, silence is complicity,” said Father Roy Bourgeois. “For that reason, we were at the Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, DC, to express our solidarity with these women.” The group invited the embassy staff to join the call for the release of the 15 women who remain incarcerated.
The extreme abortion laws in El Salvador were passed under the ultra-right wing Arena government in 1997. Embassy staff were concerned about the issues raised and informed protesters that the Supreme Court has the authority to review these cases.
Some of the protesters were part of a recent US Human Rights Delegation to El Salvador that visited five of the women in prison who are serving 30-year sentences for having a miscarriage. They have 22 more years to go before they are released.
July 9, 2015
Pope Francis this week embarked on a seven-day “homecoming” tour of Latin America in his unstoppable quest to defend the planet and the poor.
The continent—the most unequal region in the world, and the Argentine pontiff’s home turf—will likely provide fertile ground for more of his legendary sermons on poverty and inequality. After addressing a crowd of a million in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Monday, Francis is scheduled to attend a meeting of grass-roots political activists and visit one of the continent’s largest prisons, in Bolivia, as well as a slum and a children’s hospital in Paraguay.
While he advocates for South America’s impoverished and disenfranchised, its prisoners, its indigenous peoples and its children, one group is unlikely to feature in Francis’ apparently radical agenda: its women.
Despite his efforts to champion his constituency—the world’s poor, of which the vast majority are women—the pope tends to overlook the feminized nature of poverty and inequality.
Like the rest of the world -and the Vatican – Latin America is built on gender inequality. Important progress has been made in the region over recent decades, and the percentage of its overall population living in poverty had decreased significantly. But the feminization of poverty (an increase in the levels of poverty among women or female-headed households relative to the levels of men or male-headed households) increased from 109 percent in 1994 to almost 117 percent in 2013, according to the United Nations.
Women’s labor participation in the region remains more than a quarter less than that of men, at 52.9 percent, compared with 79.6 percent, as recorded in 2010 statistics. And while the wage gap has shrunk, women still earn a staggering 68 percent less than their male colleagues. South American women are also twice as likely as men to be unpaid workers.
As a public figure who frequently invokes “dignity” in appealing to the hearts and minds of his followers, the Catholic leader would do well to address the results of a recent poll in which Latin Americans were found to be the least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to describe women in their countries as treated with respect and dignity. A median of 35 percent of adults across 22 Latin American countries said their women are treated this way—about half the percentages in any other region of the world.
Of the little research that exists, the statistics on violence against women in Latin America are gruesome. A recent U.N. report published in the Economist found that a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. It states that in Colombia, “attacks in which acid is thrown at women’s faces, disfiguring them, nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2012.” Moreover, of the 25 countries in the world that are high or very high in the U.N.’s ranking for femicides (killings of women that seem to be related to their sex), more than half are in the region.
Research shows that when women have access to contraception and are educated to make responsible choices, their income, employment and education levels rise, as do their children’s. As women’s choices expand, they have fewer unassisted labors and backstreet abortions, meaning maternal mortality is reduced, and, depending on the type of contraception used, life-limiting sexually transmitted diseases are contained.
But because the Vatican considers women second-class citizens, it goes without saying that the pope will not mention abortion or contraception during his South American tour.
Figures show that of the 4.4 million abortions performed in Latin America in 2008, 95 percent were unsafe, and about 1 million women are hospitalized annually for treatment of complications from such procedures. In this context, it should be noted that the pope has described the abortion-rights movement as a “culture of death” and has opposed Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s efforts to distribute free contraceptives.
Francis has shown himself capable of influencing policy (he was most recently hailed as instrumental in restoring diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba), but as Jemima Thackray writes in The Telegraph, “the Catholic Church’s growth is coming from non-European countries where the so-called ‘liberal’ issues of sexual equality are considered less important.”
As much as he has advocated “rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world,” Francis has repeatedly embraced the traditional Catholic view that a woman’s role is in the home. Extolling the role of women specifically as mothers by declaring “the presence of women in a domestic setting” as crucial to “the very transmission of the faith,” Francis has said, “I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood.” Although women may have lives outside the home, Francis has urged us not to “forget the irreplaceable role of the woman in a family.”
Given the pope’s outspoken views, we’ve been hoping he’d get around to addressing gender inequality eventually. But lest we forget, the Vatican is—and always will be—a patriarchal institution based on sexual hierarchy. Asked on two occasions about the possibility of admitting women to the ranks of the clergy, Francis has given a firm no. “That door,” he said in 2013, “is closed.” As Thackray explains, “this is not about having a Western liberal agenda for equality for its own sake, but about acknowledging that in allowing women into positions of influence in the church, this would raise their general status, reducing their vulnerability and poverty. Perhaps,” she continues, “it would also help shake up some of the closed male-dominated systems which have caused some of the other worst abuses by the Catholic Church.”
It would be no violation of doctrine to recognize women as equally and intrinsically valuable, regardless of their familial role or fertility. Until the pope’s vision of equality includes this, it’s incomplete.
A version of this article originally appeared in Truthdig.