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Children spending a lifetime in prison — only in the USA January 18, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Human Rights.
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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Cruel and Unusual: The U.S. is the only country that locks up children for life. Tell Louisiana that Christi Cheramie — sentenced to life without parole at the age of 16 — deserves another chance.

 

Locked up for life at 16. No possibility of parole. Christi Cheramie is living a nightmare.
When Christi was 16 years old, back in 1994, she couldn’t vote, drink alcohol, serve on a jury, or buy lottery tickets. She was considered a minor — a child. But that didn’t stop the state of Louisiana from giving this 16-year-old a sentence of life without parole.

Ask Louisiana’s governor and the state Board of Pardons to grant clemency to Christi Cheramie.

Only in the U.S. — where children as young as 11 have faced life in prison — are such harsh sentences against juveniles allowed. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits life without parole for offenses committed under the age of 18. This is not about excusing or minimizing the consequences of crimes committed by children, but about recognizing that children are not yet fully responsible for their actions and have special potential for rehabilitation and change.
Christi, now 33 years old, has spent more than half of her young life in prison. She’s earned her high school equivalency diploma and an associate’s degree in Agriculture Studies, and teaches classes to her fellow inmates. A prison warden who oversaw Christi considers her a “model inmate” who has grown into a “remarkable young woman” deserving of “a second chance in society.”

But if we don’t act, a mandatory sentence of life without parole means that Christi will die in prison. A victim of sexual abuse and depression, and caught in the web of an aggressive and controlling older fiancé, Christi found herself at the grisly murder scene of her fiancé’s great aunt. She was charged with murder just for being there — even though it was her fiancé who wielded the knife.

The victim’s closest family members are sympathetic to Christi’s case. But Christi’s fate is now in the hands of Louisiana’s governor and Board of Pardons.

Our 2011 Write for Rights campaign highlighted Christi’s case, and thousands of letters have already poured into Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s office. Next week, the Board of Pardons will meet to decide whether or not to move forward with Christi’s clemency application — a decision that the governor can influence. We must keep the momentum going from Write for Rights — and the time to act is now!

Christi has already changed people’s lives through her work at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, but she will never be able to realize her full potential — and society won’t benefit from her potential contributions — if she spends the rest of her life behind bars.

It’s time for the U.S. to join the rest of the world and end the cruel and unusual punishment of juvenile life without parole. People convicted of crimes while still children — like Christi Cheramie — should be given a chance at rehabilitation. They shouldn’t be left to grow old in a jail cell.
You can make a difference in Christi’s case. Sign our petition now calling for clemency for Christi Cheramie.

Thank You,

Michael O’Reilly Senior Director, Individuals at Risk Campaign Amnesty International USA

Amnesty Calls on Canada to Arrest Bush October 13, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture.
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Published on Thursday, October 13, 2011 by Agence France-Presse

 

OTTAWA – Amnesty International called on Canadian authorities Wednesday to arrest and prosecute George W. Bush, saying the former US president authorised “torture” when he directed the US-led war on terror.

Former US president George W. Bush speaks at the ceremony marking the opening of the Flight 93 National Memorial and the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in Shanksville, Pennsylvania September 10, 2011. (Photo: Reuters File)

 Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada’s westernmost British Columbia province on October 20.

In a memorandum submitted last month to Canada’s attorney general but only now released to the media, the London-based group charged that Bush has legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations.

“Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former president Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture,” Amnesty’s Susan Lee said in a statement.

“As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights,” Lee said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blasted Amnesty for “cherry picking cases to publicize, based on ideology.”

“This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International,” he said.

Kenney said it will be up to Canadian border officials to decide independently whether to allow Bush into the country.

Bush canceled a visit to Switzerland in February, after facing similar public calls for his arrest.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International’s Canadian branch, told a press conference the rights group will pursue its case against the former US president with the governments of other countries he might visit.

“Torturers must face justice and their crimes are so egregious that the responsibility for ensuring justice is shared by all nations,” Neve said.

“Friend or foe, extraordinary or very ordinary times, most or least powerful nation, faced with concerns about terrorism or any other threat, torture must be stopped.

“Bringing to justice the people responsible for torture is central to that goal. It is the law… And no one, including the man who served as president of the world’s most powerful nation for eight years can be allowed to stand above that law.”

Amnesty, backed by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, claims Bush authorised the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “waterboarding” on detainees held in secret by the Central Intelligence Agency between 2002 and 2009.

The detention program included “torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (such as being forced to stay for hours in painful positions and sleep deprivation), and enforced disappearances,” it alleged.

Amnesty’s case, outlined in its 1,000-page memorandum, relies on the public record, US documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush’s own memoir and a Red Cross report critical of the US’s war on terror policies.

Amnesty cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military.

The cases include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn (known as Abu Zubaydah) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty.

© 2011 Agence France-Presse

Conservatives Revive Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement March 12, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Colombia, Latin America.
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Deal tabled as assassinations and displacement continue

Source: The Media Co-o

Written by Dawn Paley   
Thursday, 11 March 2010 14:39

The Conservatives tabled the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in Parliament yesterday, reviving a deal many thought better left for dead.

Renewed interest in the deal comes weeks after an Amnesty International report found Indigenous peoples in Colombia are at risk of being exterminated by state forces, right wing paramilitary groups and guerrilla organizations.

But Canadian officials are ignoring Amnesty’s report, focusing instead on economic aspects of the deal.

“International trade is critical to our economic recovery,” said Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan in a press release. “As we move beyond stimulus spending and diversify opportunities for Canadian business abroad, this free trade agreement will help Canadians prosper,” he said.

Van Loan’s comments come though there is little data supporting the notion that economic benefits will flow to Canadians as the result of an FTA with Colombia.

The Canada-Colombia deal will open market access for certain Canadian commodities, flooding the Colombian market with Canadian wheat, barley and other grains. The key provisions of the deal relate to the security of Canadian investments in the mining and oil and gas sector.

The agreement, which was being fast-tracked in parliament as Bill C-23, was sidelined when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued parliament. Critics of the Canada-Colombia FTA are urging Micheal Ignatieff, the leader of the official opposition, to vote against the deal, now dubbed C-2, in parliament.

“Ignatieff has only one choice if he truly cares about human rights and democracy, and that’s to keep the Colombia free trade agreement off the parliamentary agenda until a human rights impact assessment can be carried out,” said Stuart Trew, the trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians.

Unfortunatly, the Liberals have wavered in their opposition to the deal, straying from an election promise by former leader Stépane Dion that they wouldn’t sign off on the deal until the human rights situation in Colombia improved.

“Far from creating a legitimate economy, as Liberal MPs have been suggesting in defence of the Colombia free trade agreement, the deal before Parliament would increase the chances that Canadian companies invested in agriculture, mining and resource extraction in sensitive areas will be doing business with murderers, drug traffickers and arms smugglers,” said Trew in a press release.

News of the tabling of the agreement comes together with the newest gruesome figures relating to murders of union members last year. Colombia’s National Labour School reports that 45 unionists were killed in 2009.

“In the face of these serious, ongoing abuses it is unacceptable that Ottawa would even be talking to the Colombian government, let alone fast-tracking an agreement,” said Paul Moist, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, in a press release.

In February, Amnesty spokesperson Kathy Price said the situation of Indigenous peoples in Colombia is nothing short of an emergency. At least 114 Indigenous people were murdered last year, while thousands more were subject to threats, abuse, torture and displacement.

Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side the United States Government Is on With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras December 16, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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(Roger’s Note: this photo tells it all.  It shows Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, shaking hands with Pepe Lobo to congratulate him on his election victory in Honduras in an illegitimate election that was held under a regime installed by a military coup and in an atmosphere of violent repression; an election that has be soundly condemned and rejected by governments and international bodies around the world [with the exception of a handfull of US puppet governments such as that of Uribe in Colombia].  The can be absolutely no doubt that from Day One the US government under Mr. Obama was in support of the right-wing military coup that deposed Honduras’ democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.  So much for democracy.  This is the same United States of America whose governments past and present have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan in the name of democracy.)

Published on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

by Mark Weisbrot

At dawn on June 28, the Honduran military abducted President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint and flew him out of the country. Conflicting and ambiguous statements from the Obama administration left many confused about whether it opposed this coup or was really trying to help it succeed.  Here are the top ten indicators (with apologies to David Letterman):

  1. The White House statement on the day of the coup did not condemn it, merely calling on “all political and social actors in Honduras” to respect democracy.  Since U.S. officials have acknowledged that they were talking to the Honduran military right up to the day of the coup – allegedly to try and prevent it – they had time to think about what their immediate response would be if it happened.
  1. The Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations General Assembly, and other international bodies responded by calling for the “immediate and unconditional” return of President Zelaya. In the ensuing five months, no U.S. official would use either of those two words.
  1. At a press conference the day after the coup, Secretary of State Clinton was asked if “restoring the constitutional order” in Honduras meant returning Zelaya himself. She would not say yes.
  1. On July 24th, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced President Zelaya’s attempt to return to his own country that week as “reckless,” adding that “We have consistently urged all parties to avoid any provocative action that could lead to violence.”
  1. Most U.S. aid to Honduras comes from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency. The vast majority of this aid was never suspended. By contrast, on August 6, 2008, there was a military coup in Mauritania; MCC aid was suspended the next day. In Madagascar, the MCC announced the suspension of aid just three days after the military coup of March 17, 2009.
  1. On September 28, State Department officials representing the United States blocked the OAS from adopting a resolution on Honduras that would have refused to recognize Honduran elections carried out under the dictatorship.
  1. The United States government refused to officially determine that there was a “military coup,” in Honduras – in contrast to the view of rest of the hemisphere and the world.
  1. The Obama administration defied the rest of the hemisphere and the world by supporting undemocratic elections in Honduras.
    On October 30th, U.S. government representatives including Thomas Shannon, the top U.S. State Department official for Latin America, brokered an accord between President Zelaya and the coup regime. The agreement was seen throughout the region as providing for Zelaya’s restitution, and – according to diplomats close to the negotiations – both Shannon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave assurances that this was true.
    Yet just four days later, Mr. Shannon stated in a TV interview that the United States would recognize the November 29 elections, regardless of whether or not Zelaya were restored to the presidency. This put the United States against all of Latin America, which issued a 23-nation statement two days later saying that Zelaya’s restitution was an “indispensable prerequisite” for recognizing the elections. The Obama administration has since been able to recruit the right-wing governments of Canada, Panama, and Colombia, and also Peru, to recognize the elections. But its support for these undemocratic elections – to which the OAS, European Union, and the Carter Center all refused to send observers – has left the Obama administration as isolated as its predecessor in the hemisphere.
  1. President Zelaya visited Washington six times after he was overthrown. Yet President Obama has never once met with him. Is it possible that President Obama did not have even five minutes in all of those days just to shake his hand and say, “I’m trying to help?”
  1. The Obama administration has never condemned the massive human rights violations committed by the coup regime. These have been denounced and documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), as well as Honduran, European, and other human rights organizations. There have been thousands of illegal arrests, beatings and torture by police and military, the closing down of independent radio and TV stations, and even some killings of peaceful demonstrators and opposition activists.
    The United States government’s silence through more than five months of these human rights crimes has been the most damning and persistent evidence that it has always been more concerned about protecting the dictatorship, rather than restoring democracy in Honduras.

The majority of American voters elected President Obama on a promise that our foreign policy would change. For this hemisphere, at least, that promise has been broken.

The headline from the latest Time Magazine report on Honduras summed it up: “Obama’s Latin America Policy Looks Like Bush’s.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.

Behind Bars in Honduras: An Interview with a Women’s Rights Leader Before the ‘Free’ Election December 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Honduras, Latin America, Women.
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Written by Tamar Sharabi
Thursday, 03 December 2009

Image

Photo by Adrian Villalobo

Merlin Eguigure helped organize an event on Nov. 25 for the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The next day while leaving a restaurant in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, members of COBRA, the special police force, ambushed her. They searched her car and detained her and two companions for having spray paint in the car. They were jailed for almost 24 hours. Merlin had used the paint to create artistic banners for the previous day’s activities. The District Attorney’s office charged her with ‘property damage’, but her case is still under investigation, and other charges can still be added.

Her real crime is being a part of the “Movement of Women for Peace Visitacion Padilla” and a ‘Feminist in Resistance,’ and for speaking out against the coup regime that took power on June 28. The organization, founded in 1984, is named after a Honduran heroine who fought for women civil liberties and political rights, and was especially vocal in 1924 against the US Marine Military presence in Honduras.

Merlin is one of the approximately 5,000 illegal detentions reported by the Committee of Relatives of Disappeared and Detained Persons in Honduras (COFADEH). The following is an interview conducted while she was behind bars in a police station in downtown Tegucigalpa, known as ‘Core 7.’

Tell me, how are you?

I am OK, so, so. For me this is just a test, and here, you have to resist against the appearance of the rule of law. Of all the impunity, we have nothing left but to resist.

Do you have a message you would like to share?

I want to say that this is a struggle of dignity against the barbarism, it is the struggle of the power of ideas against the power of arms, and considering this, we have nothing more that we can do, like we say in our organization, but to continue resisting, to continue fighting. Until the rule of law is restored we expect anything to happen, and this [my imprisonment] is an example of that. We didn’t do anything, but regardless we are here.

Will you continue in the struggle?

Of course, of course, with much more force and more commitment, because one cannot leave the country behind in these conditions. These bars and this prison does not intimidate me to keep me from fighting, my commitment is even stronger, especially when I see that the companions of my organization are here and have been here all day waiting for my release. This makes me even more committed to continue fighting for women’s rights, because women can be recognized as real citizens and because reason imposes over the truth. This is a commitment that I reaffirm, and I see this as a test of tranquility, as further proof of how the coup plotters are mistaken.

Why do you think you were arrested?

We were in the context of a day of demanding nonviolence against women and since the coup detat occurred, we have been having a huge presence. We have denounced the police brutality, we have condemned their negligence, we have said that they have been complicit in the abuse of women and in human rights violations. Just yesterday we were in the Central Park making a symbolization of what ‘Femicide’ [homicides against women] means, for our homes and for the Honduran society. We were condemning it and we were holding the national police, the armed forces, the direction of criminal investigation and all the groups that form that chain, so that women can identify them. It’s precisely because we were exposing that more than the 350 murders of women so far this year remain unpunished. I think not even 1% of the men have been sentenced. So therefore I believe that now more than ever, I am empowered even more to continue in the efforts for justice in this country, so that human rights of women are not really a theory and discourse, but become a real practice that my daughter, or grandchildren if I ever have some, so that they may enjoy a society where we are not really inferior. That is the purpose.

Do you think the situation would be different if you didn’t have so many people protesting outside, demanding your freedom?

I believe so, from the information I have regarding legal issues, the situation would be very different. We have received many visits here from international agencies like Amnesty, COFADEH [Committee of Relatives of Disappeared and Detained Persons in Honduras], JEGIL [Center for Justice and International Law], many institutions that promote human rights have come that have been vital. I think at this time, like in the 80’s, international support for the rule of law, was the same as in the 80’s, in the Cold War, it was vital to save lives of many people with the support of the international community. So I have infinite gratitude to those who have come, not to see me, Merlin is only one piece of the whole wave of repression and barbarism that has been implemented. The truth, I’m just a piece, this is really a chain. There are a lot more people who really suffered worse taunts, that have lost their lives. So we have to continue preparing and looking for tools and mechanisms to protect us, because we are women of peace and our struggle is with ideas. We do not have weapons, we do not have bombs, our only weapons are our ideas.

Do you think there can be free elections?

I, Merlin, freely, will not participate in the electoral process. I will not vote, I will not use my vote to endorse this fraud that has been in the works for some time now. I do not want to be irresponsible with my homeland, I do not think that the solution comes in this way. I think the solution is actually to listen to the people, to listen to its citizens. The elections only try, as the popular saying here is, ‘to cover the eye of a bull’, trying to resolve a crisis with the same hands of those who carried out the coup d´etat. Really the electoral process in the conditions that they are in, give no guarantee other than entrenching the power of those who already have it, and with no doubt increase some levels of repression.

Two days before the election, do you think there is still time to solve this crisis?

I think there’s always time to solve this problem. The problem of this coup has many roots. The military, the hawks in the USA, the powerful groups in America. So we need those who carried out this coup detat, also to have the strength and values to respect this homeland, because this country may be small but is full of decent and noble people that we love, and we struggle, and we will continue to fight for all the time necessary. But we will not permit them to continue damaging us, especially us. As women we have the name of the first national heroine, teacher Visitacion Padilla, who gave an example of civic citizenship. We are her followers. That is why we proudly carry her name, because we continue to demonstrate that the Hondurans want to do things right, things that we need. Therefore, those who run this country should direct it from the heart, thinking of the people and not thinking about money, not from air-conditioned desks not knowing the reality of this country.

Did you ever imagine in your life that you could be put in prison?

I believe that those who have taken the path in fighting for justice, at some point we expect something like this might happen to us. The truth, its nothing pleasant (being in prison), but they are the challenges that need to be faced, and which contribute to set precedents for dignity and justice.

Do you have any fear for what might happen in the coming days?

Well, I have a lot of fear, not personally, but I believe that many worse things may  happen in this country. As I have said, fascism is in control of the state at this time, and fascism is quite simply that—fascism; it does not think, there is no reason, it imposes, dominates, and conforms. So I think these two days will be definitive and people have to be very careful. We must be prepared for the worst because all indications suggest that we are under the wave of terror.

Tamar Sharabi is a an environmental engineer and freelance journalist living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She is originally from Queens, NY.

Selling Out Democracy in Honduras: The U.S. and the Honduran Election November 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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Posted by Isabel Macdonald, AlterNet on November 28, 2009 at 12:10 PM.

The June 28 military coup d’etat that overthrew Honduras’ democratically elected president provided President Obama with “a golden opportunity…to make a clear break with the past and show that he is unequivocally siding with democracy,” as Costa Rica’s former vice president put it.  However, the U.S.’s recognition of the sham election Honduras’ de facto regime is staging on Sunday makes it quite clear that Obama is choosing instead to side with the  far-right Republicans who support the coup.

In the wake of the coup that overthrew Honduran president Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the Guardian‘s Calvin Tucker observes that there had been some promising signs that Obama was going to remain true to his pledge to “seek a new chapter of engagement” in Latin America. Despite some initial waffling by the State Department, Obama spoke out in strong terms against Zelaya’s overthrow, saying that “it would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition, rather than democratic elections.” The U.S. backed a Costa Rican-brokered compromise that would have seen Zelaya returned to office, at the helm of a “unity government.” All non-humanitarian U.S. aid was suspended to the de facto regime, as were the U.S. visas of the coup leaders. The State Department indicated that the US would “not be able to support” the outcome of the elections out of concern that they would not be “free, fair and transparent.” And finally, during a visit to Honduras by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in late October, the coup leaders agreed to sign the U.S. backed agreement providing for Zelaya’s return.

This firm U.S. reaction apparently “privately stunned” the coup leaders, who were sure “this would never have happened if the Republicans had still been in power,” according to the New Yorker‘s William Finnegan.

Indeed, the coup leaders, who along with their allies such as the Latin American Business Council have spent at least six hundred thousand dollars on Washington lobbyists and lawyers, count amongst their supporters several prominent congressional Republicans, including South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.

DeMint had been leading efforts to block key diplomatic appointments in Latin America, and earlier this month, the Obama administration succumbed to this pro-coup Republican pressure, announcing that it will after all recognize Sunday’s election, and not insist on the return of the legitimate president. On November 4, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon announced on CNN that “the formation of the National Unity Government is apart from the reinstatement of President Zelaya” and that the Honduran Congress will decide when and if Zelaya is reinstated.

DeMint took credit for the change in U.S. policy, releasing a press statement declaring “Senator secures commitment for U.S. to back Nov. 29 elections even if Zelaya is not reinstated.” In the statement, DeMint said he was

happy to report the Obama Administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the November 29th elections… Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Shannon have assured me that the U.S. will recognize the outcome of the Honduran elections regardless of whether Manuel Zelaya is reinstated.

The 23 Latin American and Caribbean nations of the Rio Group do not recognize Sunday’s election. However the Obama administration is now going ahead in recognizing the vote held in the midst of what Amnesty International has characterized as a “human rights crisis,” marked by an”increasingly disproportionate and excessive use of force being used by the police and military to repress legitimate and peaceful protests across the country.” Since Zelaya’s overthrow, over 3,500 people have been illegally detained, over 600 have been beaten and dozens have been killed, according to the Committee of Families of the Disappeared (COFADEH), with media workers, human rights defenders and female protesters particularly targeted, according to Amnesty.

The only two presidential candidates on the ballot supported the coup that ousted the elected president. The leading opposition candidate, Carlos Reyes, recently withdrew his nomination for the presidency, calling the election fraudulent, and hundreds of candidates for congressional and municipal seats have also withdrawn from the election.

And Tucker notes that

Trade unions and social movements calling for a boycott of the election are facing mafia-style threats, with the regime’s chief of police boasting that he has compiled a blacklist of “all those of the left”.

At the same time, Honduras’ big business federation, which supported the coup, is reportedly offering “cash discounts” to Hondurans for voting in the election.

The fact that such an election has won the support of the Obama administration does not bode well for the president’s “new chapter” of U.S.-Latin America relations.

What Happened in Chile: An Analysis of the Health Sector Before, During, and After Allende’s Administration September 7, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Chile, Health, History, Latin America.
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Posted on http://susanrosenthal.com/general/what-happened-in-chile-an-analysis-of-the-health-sector-before-during-and-after-allendes-administration

Tue, Sep 1, 2009

America In Crisis, Featured, General, Health and Medicine, Socialism

What Happened in Chile: An Analysis of the Health Sector Before, During, and After Allende’s Administration by Vicente Navarro¹

To all those in Chile and in the rest of Latin America who are persecuted because they believe that the way to break with the underdevelopment of health is to break with the sickness of underdevelopment.

On September 11, 1973, at nine o’clock in the morning, two battalions of infantry surrounded the Chilean presidential palace in Santiago. From ten o’clock until two o’clock, troops bombarded the building, killing most of the staff, including the President of Chile, Salvador Allende.²

Just a few yards from the palace can be found the most luxurious hotel in Santiago, the Careras Hotel, which is owned by the U.S. Sheraton chain.

The New York Times correspondent in the city reported that the maids, cleaners, and blue-collar workers in that hotel gathered in the basement in fear and anger over the fall of what they considered their government. Up on the top floor, meanwhile, the hotel manager invited his patrons to drink champagne with him, to celebrate the military coup and the fall of the Unidad Popular government (Kandell, 1973a).

Not far away, in the Medical College building, the Chilean Medical Association sent a telegram of support for the coup (El Mercurio, 1973a).

Meanwhile, in most health centers and hospitals, and in most working-class and rural communities, the health workers, the blue-collar workers, the low-income peasantry, the unem­ployed, and the poor, that sector of the Chilean population that Neruda had defined as the “disenfranchised majorities,” were resisting the military takeover.

The strength of the resistance is evidenced by the fact that today, ten months after that morning in September, the country is still in a state of siege (Gott, 1974). And the military has had to establish a repression defined by the correspondent of Le Monde in Santiago as “the carnage of the working class and of the poor” (Le Monde, 1973:12).

Thousands of miles away, according to the Washington correspondent of Le Monde Diplomatique, the atmosphere in the “corporate corridors of power in Washington was one of cautious delight, with some embarrass­ment” (Le Monde Diplomatique, 1973:7).

pinochet_attacks_allende

Why these events? How were they linked? And more impor­tant, what is the meaning of those events in Chile for Latin America as a whole?

In this presentation I will try to give you my perception of what happened to Chile’s health sector and why it happened. And I will attempt some tentative conclusions. Also, and since it is my assump­tion that the health sector in any society mirrors the rest of that soci­ety, I will try to describe the evolution of Chile’s health services within the over-all parameters that define the general underdevelopment of Chile.

BACKGROUND

In order to explain the events in Chile, both within and outside the health sector, we should first look at the causes of underdevelop­ment in Chile, which, as I have postulated elsewhere (Navarro, 1974), are the same determinants that shape the structure, function, and dis­tribution of resources in the health sector.

The causes of underdevelopment, not only in Chile, but also in most of Latin America, are not due (as is believed in most of the leading circles of government and academia of developed countries and in the international agencies) to:

(1) the scarcity of the proper “values” and technology in the poor countries

(2) the scarcity of capital and resources

(3) the insufficient diffusion of capital, val­ues, and technology from the developed societies to the cities of the underdeveloped countries and from there to the rural areas

Quite the opposite of that interpretation of underdevelopment, the causes of un­derdevelopment are the existence in Chile – as well as in the rest of Latin America – of the “conditions of development,” that is (1) too much cultural and technological dependency on the developed countries, and (2) the under-use and improper use of the existing capi­tal by the national bourgeoisie and its foreign counterparts.

In fact, the highly skewed distribution of economic and political power in Chile is the root of Chile’s underdevelopment.

To some of you, accustomed to the classless approach of sociological research prevalent in American sociology, this may sound very sketchy and even like a slogan. If this is the case, I would suggest you read “The Underdevelopment of Health or the Health of Underdevelopment” (Navarro, 1974), where I present evidence to support this theory. This presentation is an extension of that article.

To understand the underdevelopment of health resources in Chile, we have to start with a description of the skewed distribu­tion of economic and political power between the different classes in Chile. Although each class contains different groups with differ­ent interests, there is still a certain uniformity of political and economic behavior within each class that allows us to break Chilean society into basically three classes.3

At the top, we have 10 percent of the population, who control 60 percent of the wealth (income and property) of society and who determine the pattern of investment, production, and consumption in Chile. Because their economic, political, and social power is dependent on the power of the bourgeoisie of the de­veloped countries, Frank (1973) adds the expression “lumpen” to the term bourgeoisie.

Dependent on the lumpenbourgeoisie are the middle classes, who, in Latin America, as a UN-ECLA report states, “im­proved their social status by coming to terms with the oligarchy” (United Nations Economic Council for Latin America, 1970:79; quoted in Frank 1973:134). Far from being a progressive force, as the middle classes were in the developed societies following the industrial revolution, the middle classes in Latin America were and are a mere economic appendage to the lumpenbourgeoisie.

Below these two classes is the majority of the population, the blue-collar workers, the peasantry, the unemployed, and the poor, rep­resenting 65 percent of the Chilean population and owning only 12 percent of the wealth of that society (Petras, 1970).4

The Structure of Health Services in Chile

Not unexpectedly, the class structure of Chile is replicated in her health services.

crowd2

The governmental health service or National Health Service (NHS) covers the working class, the peasantry, the unem­ployed, the poor, and a small fraction of the lowest-paid white-collar workers – a group that repre­sents approximately 70 percent of the Chilean population.

Voluntary health insurance (SERMENA) covers the middle class which represent approximately 22 percent of the Chilean people; and fee-for­-service, out-of-pocket, “market” medicine covers the lumpen­bourgeoisie, approximately 8 percent of Chileans.

Not unexpectedly, expenditures per capita are lowest in the government sector, higher in the insurance sector, and even higher in the private sector.

Between 1968 and 1969, the top two groups, the lumpenbourgeoisie and middle classes, representing 30 percent of the Chilean population, consumed 60 percent of Chile’s health ex­penditures, while the working class, the peasantry, the unemployed, and the poor, representing 70 percent of the population, consumed only 40 percent of national health expen­ditures (Chilean Ministry of Public Health, 1970:93, 183, and 186; quoted in Gaete and Castanon, 1973).

Moreover, reflecting the increasing income differential between the upper and lower classes, those differences of consumption have been increasing, not decreas­ing.

In 1958, private-sector consumption represented 41 percent of national health expenditures. By 1963 that percentage had grown to 57 percent, and by 1968 to 60 percent (Gaete and Casta­non, 1973:10).

Between 1960 and 1968, private-sector consumption of health and medical services increased from 2.0 to 3.7 percent of the Gross National Product, while public sector consumption decreased from 3.2 percent to 2.5 percent over the same period. This expansion of private-sector  consumption was due to increased consumption per capita in the private sector, since the percentage of the population in the upper classes did not change. (Petras, 1970).

In summary, then, the distribution and consumption of health resources in Chile reflects Chile’s class dis­tribution, and this leads to a situation in which family expenditures for health services in the lower classes are a tenth of the amount spent by the upper classes (Diaz, 1966; quoted in Gaete and Castanon, 1973).

It is important to know how this distribution of resources, which reflects the class system, came about. It is worth noting that, while the evolution of the Chilean health services has some unique elements, there are also quite a few characteristics that are similar to those seen in other countries, including in the United States. For a succinct historical review of the main histor­ical events in Chile during this century, see Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (1973).

In 1925, it was written into the Chilean Con­stitution that health care is a human right and that the state has the respon­sibility of guaranteeing health care for its citizens.

The gap between theory and practice was a wide one, however, and it was not until 1952 that a  National Health Service was established, initially to take care of blue collar workers, and then, in successive stages, other sectors of the population such as the peasantry, the unemployed and the poor.5

There are several reasons, as many as there are theories, for the creation of the National Health Service at that time. One reason is the situation of the Chilean economy in the 1930s and 1940s.

In the Depression that hit the world economy in the 1930s, international demand for raw materials and primary products fell off markedly, creating a major crisis in dependent economies such as Chile’s, where the main exports were those goods. However, during World War II, the demand for Chile’s products, and primarily for copper, Chile’s main export, began to revive.

It was at this time that the lumpenbourgeoisie and its foreign counterparts saw an opportunity to develop Chile’s sluggish economy according to their own schemes, with industrialization as the main stimulant. Because they wanted to build up the economy, it was advantageous to have a healthy work force, particularly in the industrial sector.

The primary aim of the National Health Service was to “produce a healthy and productive labor force” (Gaete and Castanon, 1973:12), and the statutory law establishing the National Health Service actually states that a prime objective of the Service is to “guide the development of the child and the young, and the maintenance of the adult for their full capacity as future and present producers” (Chilean Ministry of Public Health, 1950).

The industrialization of the country required great sac­rifices and, as has occurred in most countries, the burden of these sacrifices fell not on upper- but on lower-class shoulders.

Dur­ing the decade 1940-1950, a large regressive distribution of in­come took place at the expense of the lower-income groups. Wages during that period fell from 27 to 21 percent of the national income, and the economic gap between the classes increased dramatically. These developments were accompanied by great repression, with the intent to destroy working-class-based parties.

Not surprisingly, this period of Chilean history was marked by worker and peasant upris­ings, and great social unrest.

people-march-posterThe threatened lumpenbourgeoisie responded to this not only with repression but also with social legislation.

This reaction was not unlike that of Bismarck during the previous century in Germany, with, besides repression, the creation of social security and the founding of a National Health Insurance scheme to care for blue-collar workers, and later the peasantry, the unemployed, and the poor.

The intent of these changes was to co-opt the unsettling forces. But the concession of one class was the gain of the other.

Naturally the working-class-based parties not only supported but fought for the creation of the National Health Service. And it was none other than the late President Allende, at that time a member of the Chilean Senate for the Socialist Party, who introduced and spon­sored the law establishing the National Health Service.

In that respect the Chilean experience in the 1950s repeated the experience with social security in other countries.

Let me quote Sigerist, that great medical historian and professor of medical history at Johns Hopkins back in the 1940s. His presentation to the London School of Hygiene in the same year (1952) that the National Health Service was created in Chile, are relevant not only to the Chilean situation of the 1950s but also to our present debate on national health insurance here in the United States (Sigerist, 1956; quoted in Terris, 1973:317):

Social-security legislation came in waves and followed a certain pattern.

Increased  industrialization created the need; strong political parties rep­resenting the interests of the workers seemed a potential threat to the existing order, or at least to the traditional system of production, and an acute scare such as that created by the French Commune stirred Conser­vatives into action and social-security legislation was enacted.

In England at the beginning of our century the second industrial revolution was very strongly felt. The Labour Party entered parliament and from a two-party country England developed into a three-party country.

The Russian rev­olution of 1905 was suppressed to be sure, but seemed a dress rehearsal for other revolutions to follow. Social legislation was enacted not by the Socialists but by Lloyd George and Churchill.

A third wave followed World War I when again the industries of every warfaring country were greatly expanded, when, as a result of the war, the Socialist parties grew stronger everywhere, and the Russian revolution of 1917 created a red scare from which many countries are still suffering. Again social-security legislation was enacted in a number of countries.

Every historical pattern we set up is to a certain extent artificial, and history never repeats itself unaltered. But patterns are useful because they help us to understand conditions.

When we look at the American scene we find the need for health insurance and a red scare that could not be stronger, but America has no Socialist party, no politically active labour movement that could bring pressure upon the Government. The existing order is not threatened from any side and conservative parties do not feel the need for action on these lines.

How applicable this quotation is to our present situation in the United States is for you to decide.

As for its applicability to the Chilean situation in the 1950s, it is clear that the creation of social security and the National Health Service was also a response by the right to claims and threats from the left. At the same time, the middle and upper classes retained their private sector options with fee-for-service, direct payment to physicians, following the market model in which health services are sold and bought like any other commodity.

chilean-medical-association-bannner

The attitude of the medical profession toward the National Health Service has been ambivalent.

On the one side, they need it, since the consumer power for the majority of the population covered by the National Health Service was, and continues to be, very low indeed. The National Health Service has always been an important source of income for the 90 percent of Chile’s physicians who work for it either on a part- or full-time basis (Gaete and Castanon, 1973:9).

On the other hand, the medical profession maintained profound reservations about the National Health Service because they feared government intervention. This explains why, as their conditions of acceptance of the service, they demanded:

(1) that the Chilean Medical Association be appointed, by law, as the watchdog of the National Health Service, to defend the economic and other interests of the med­ical profession

(2) that their private practice, fee­-for-service patients would be able to use Na­tional Health Service facilities.6

In the 1960s, when an economic depression hit Chile and the costs of health care increased, both the consuming middle classes and physicians began a movement that led to the creation in 1968 of a health insurance plan (SERMENA), similar to our Blues, to cover both hospitalization and ambulatory care, with maintenance of the fee-for-service payment to physicians.

As with our Blues, the creation of SERMENA was a response to provider concern that the increasing costs of medical care were forcing their private clientele out of the market. The Frei administration, whose main constituency was the middle classes, approved and stimulated the creation of this insurance, which covers the majority of professionals, small owners, petite bourgeoisie, and white-collar workers.

With the establishment of SERMENA, the Chilean class structure was formalized and replicated within the health  sector, with the National Health Service taking care of 70 percent or the majority of the population, the blue-collar workers, the peasants, the unemployed, and the poor, and the health insurance scheme (SERMENA) taking care of the middle classes (20 percent) and increasing sectors of the lumpen­bourgeoisie (2 percent). For a historical review of the health services in Chile, see Laval, 1944; Laval and Garcia, 1956. Both articles are in Spanish.

The Distribution of Resources by Regions

Related to this maldistribution of resources by social class, there is a maldistribution of resources by regions, depending on whether the areas are urban or rural.

map-opf-chileChile, a long, narrow country that is 2,600 miles in length, is 75 percent urban and 25 percent rural, and 30 per­cent of the population lives in the capital city, Santiago.

Analyzing the distribution of resources, we find that the number of visits per annum per capita in Santiago is twice that of the rural areas, while the personal expenditures for health services in Santiago ($38) are over four times those in the rural areas ($9), for both ambulatory and hospi­tal care. (For an excellent review of the distribution of health re­sources in the National Health Service in Chile, see Hall and Diaz, 1971.)

Although Santiago has only one-third of the Chilean popula­tion, it has 60 percent of all physicians and 50 percent of all den­tists. In terms of environmental services, 80 percent of the water supply and 65 percent of the sewerage system is considered adequate in the urban areas, compared with only 20 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in the rural ones (Requena, 1971).

As I have explained elsewhere (Navarro, 1974), these rural areas are not marginal areas that the modern sector has not reached. Quite the contrary, their poverty is due to their link to the modern sector, with the wealth of the urban areas being partially based on the poverty of the rural ones.

However dramatic this statement may sound, the evidence shows that a significant part of the wealth of the urban-based lumpenbourgeoisie comes primarily from the extractive industries and agriculture, which are situated where most of the pov­erty in Chile is – in the rural areas. (For a detailed and excellent explanation of this argument, see Frank, 1969: 1- 120.)

Why Such Maldistribution?

In the paper referred to earlier (Navarro, 1974), I attempted to analyze some of the reasons for this maldistribution, which are typical of most Latin-American countries. As I indicated earlier, we cannot understand the maldistribution of resources in the health sector without analyzing the unequal distribution of economic and political power in these societies, i.e., who controls what, or what is usually referred to in political economy as who controls the means of production and reproduction.

In Chile, as in most Latin-American countries, the lumpen­bourgeoisie controls most of the wealth, property, and income in society. They are the ones who do most of the saving, who direct the investments and influence the affairs of state and who primarily control the workings of the executive, legisla­tive, judicial, and military arms of government. Above all, they con­trol the distribution of resources in the primary, secondary, and ter­tiary sectors of the economy.

In the tertiary sector, they influence the distribution of resources in the health sector by:

(1) expounding the “market model” system of allocating resources, whereby resources are distributed according to consuming rather than producing power, i.e., upper-class, urban-based consumer power

(2) influencing the means of reproduction, i.e., urban-based medical education

(3) controlling the social content and nature of the medical profession, as a result of the unavailability and inaccessibility of university education to the majority of the population.

Medical students come primarily from the professional and lumpenbourgeoisie classes, which represent less than 12 percent of the Chilean population.

Let me illus­trate this point with figures on the father’s occupations of the 264 first-year students in the School of Medicine of the University of Chile in 1971: managers and professionals (70.4 percent); white-collar workers (16.0 percent); blue-collar (4.1 percent); and others (9.5 per­cent). The category “others” does not include peasants. The peasantry, 30 percent of the labor force, had not a son or a daugh­ter in the main medical school of Chile (Sepulveda, 1973:4).

Another mechanism of control used by the lumpenbourgeoisie in the health sector is their influence, tantamount to control, over the highly centralized, urban-based state organs, so that the public sector, controlled by the different branches of the state, is made to serve their needs.

Until 1970 the executive, legislative, and judicial branches were all controlled by those political parties that represent the lumpen­bourgeoisie and the middle classes. In the election of 1970, however, the executive, though not the other branches of the state, changed hands and passed partially into the control of the working-class-based parties. For a detailed explanation of this point, see the series of arti­cles edited by Cockcroft et al. (1972: Part II).

Consequences of Class Control: Priorities in the Health Sector

doctor-with-arms-crossedControl by the bourgeoisie of the means of production in the health sector leads to a pattern of production aimed primarily at satisfying the bourgeoisie’s pattern of consumption. And this pat­tern of consumption of the lumpenbourgeoisie, the setters of the tastes and values of these societies, mimics the patterns of consumption of the bourgeoisie of the developed countries.

Not surprisingly, the pattern of production in the health services of Chile was very similar to the pattern of production in most health services of developed countries, i.e., a system that is highly oriented toward:

(a) specialized, hospital-based medicine as opposed to community medicine

(b) urban, technologi­cally intensive medicine in contrast to rural, labor-intensive medicine

(c) curative medicine as different from preventive medicine

(d) personal health services as opposed to environmental health services

Considering the type of health problems prevalent in Chile, where malnutrition and infectious diseases are the main causes of mortality and morbidity, the best strategy to combat the problems which affect the majority would be to emphasize precisely the opposite patterns of production to those currently prevalent in the health sector. This would imply emphasis on rural, labor-intensive, and commu­nity-oriented medicine, while giving far greater priority to the preventive and environmental health services than to personal health and curative services.

This mimic behavior of the lumpenbourgeoisie is explained by their interest in having the “latest” in medicine, with a concomitant growth of open-heart surgery units, coronary-care units, organ transplants and the like, representing “Cadillac” or “Rolls Royce” medicine.

This order of medical priorities is bad enough in de­veloped countries, and even worse in developing ones, because it diverts much needed resources away from providing health services for the many, in order to provide them for the few.

Control by the few of the production of health resources also determines a pattern of reproduction in Chile’s medical education, where the distribution of specialties follows very closely, by types and percentages of specialties, the pattern in the developed countries.

Table 1 shows the percentage distribution of physicians in certain specialties. You can see that surgery, the typical tech­nological, hospital-based specialty, represents the top specialty by per­centage of physicians, with pediatrics and public health being the low­est categories.

It should be obvious that in a country with 38 percent  of  the population under 15 years of age, and with most morbidity caused by environmental and nutritional deficiencies, there is an over­supply of surgeons and an undersupply of pediatricians and specialists in public health.

TABLE 1
Percentage Distribution of Physicians by Some Specialties

Country                 Year         General Practice       Public Health          Surgery      Pediatrics

Chile                       1972               14.0                                3.2                        18.2              10.0
United States       1970               17.8                                0.8                         20.0                6.0

Source: Adapted from Department of Human Resources, Pan American Health Organization (1973)

Expenditures on environmental health services were a very small fraction of total health expenditures, with the majority of resources going to curative services and the largest percentage to hospitals. In 1969, 94 percent of total health expenditure was spent on medical care, while only 6 percent was spent on water and sewerage. Per capita expenditures on these items were $24 (US) and $1.5 (US) respectively (Sepulveda, 1972).

The well-known economist Ahumada (1968), Navarro (1974), and many others (see Navarro and Ruderman, 1971) have emphasized that the health services re­quired for a developing country are services that are not technological, but labor-intensive, not hospital- but community-oriented, not curative but preventive, and aimed not at personal but environmental health. This suggested order of priorities is precisely opposite to the one followed in Chile and in the majority of Latin-American coun­tries, which as I have explained, is a result of the pattern of economic and political control in those countries.

The Election of the Unidad Popular (UP) Government

allende-and-crowd2

Having detailed the situation before the coming of Allende’s govern­ment, let me now define what a government whose main constituen­cies were the disenfranchised blue-collar working classes and peasantry did, and intended to do, in the area of health services. A song, popular among the upper class during the Allende administra­tion, said (quoted by Feinberg, 1972:169):

Under Alessandri [National Party], gentlemen governed,
under Frei, the noveaux riches [and not so rich],
and now, with Allende, govern the ragged ones.

The Unidad Popular government, which took office in 1970, was a coalition administration, a popular front  government of different parties with no one in a clear position of leadership.7 Inter-party strug­gles were part of the daily political scene, with cabinet positions given according to the relative importance of each party within the coali­tion.

The Ministry of Public Health, not a basic post within the gov­ernment (or, I would add, in most governments and in most coun­tries), was given to a minority party, the Radical Party, whose con­stituency was a small sector of the middle class. The major health policies, however, were defined by the Cabinet, chaired by President Allende, with a Socialist and Communist majority.

President Allende, a physician by profession, had long been ac­quainted with the development of the health services, both as a member of the Senate for thirty years and as the youngest Minister of Public Health during the Popular Front government in 1938. It is thus not surprising that although the distribution of health resources was not the top issue within the administration, it was not at the bottom either.

The evolution of events in the health sector mirrored the over-all series of events that took place in Chilean society as a whole during the period 1970 to 1973.

The three main commitments that the Allende administration made in the health sector were the integration of the different branches of the health services (with the exception of the armed forces health service) into one health service, the democratization of the health ser­vices institutions, and the change of priorities in the health sector, placing greater emphasis on ambulatory care and preventive services.

Let me start by looking at the third of these commitments and examining ambulatory and preventive services.

The Change toward More Ambulatory and Preventive Services

The National Health Service in Chile was organized by region during the Alessandri administration (1958- 1964). This regionalization was developed further during the years of the Frei administration (1964 to 1970) and strengthened during Allende’s time.

There were three levels of care: a primary-care or health-center level, looking after a population of approx­imately 30,000 people; a secondary-care or community-hospital level, looking after a population of approximately a quarter to half a million; and a tertiary-care or regional-center level, in charge of the care provided to a population of one to one and a half million people.

This regionalized National Health Service during the Alessandri and Frei administrations has been characterized as being largely cen­tralized, bureaucratic, and very hospital-oriented (Requena, 1971:7). Like the situation in the United Kingdom and the United States, a large percentage of all National Health Service expenditures, close to 50 percent, went to hospitals.

The Allende administration tried to reverse these priorities by shifting more resources to the health centers.

allende-feeds-child-milkOne example of this shift was that, out of the six hours a day physicians worked in the NHS, during the Allende administration at least two hours or the equivalent had to be spent in the health centers.

Another example is that the Compulsory Community Service, whereby all physi­cians had to work for a period of three years in an urban or rural health center (either when their degrees were granted, or at the end of their residencies), was expanded to five years.

Also, the number of hours that the health centers were open to the community was expanded into the late hours of the evening, and in some communities such as San­tiago, they were even open twenty-four hours a day. During the night hours, the centers were staffed with final-year medical students, under the over-all supervision of available physicians (Chilean Ministry of Public Health, 1972).

Needless to say, none of these changes endeared the Allende ad­ministration to the majority of physicians. These policies were, how­ever, very popular with the majority of the population, since they increased the accessibility of resources, providing ser­vices where people lived (i.e., in the communities).

Follow­ing the implementation of these policies immediately after Allende took power, there was a large increase in the con­sumption of ambulatory services, primarily among children. Indeed, the over-all number of ambulatory visits by children increased  in the first six months of 1971 by 17 percent over the whole country and by 21 percent for the city of Santiago (Requena, 1971:11).

As part of this new orientation toward the community, preventive services such as immunizations, vaccinations and prenatal care were emphasized. These services were provided not as separate programs, but as part of the core services of the health centers.

Another change was to expand the distribution of half a liter of milk per day, previously provided to children under five, to include children up to 15 years of age.

While these activities were far from uniformly successful, they stimulated popular support and popular involvement in the delivery of health services. And this leads me to what may be considered one of the most important achievements in the health sector during the Allende administration: the democratization of health institutions.

The Democratization of Health Institutions

The National Health Service in Chile has been referred to as a mam­moth bureaucracy that was not very responsive to the needs of the citizenry in general and to the local consumers and communities in particular.

However, the increase in working-class political conscious­ness as a result of the continuous economic crisis of the 1960s, besides making the working-class parties more powerful, also created, at the community level, a demand for popular participation in social and economic areas. This growing demand explains the creation by the Frei administration of the Community Health Councils, which were aimed at stimulating the participation of the communities in running the health institutions, either at the primary-, secondary-, or tertiary-care levels (Gaete and Castanon, 1973:14).

Like our health ad­visory councils here in the United States and the newly established district community councils in Britain, these early councils were sup­posed to be merely advisory to the director of the institution, who was appointed by the central government.8

The councils were not very successful as a mechanism for community participation in the health sector. They were perceived by the working class as a co-opting mechanism. Indeed, as indicated by the First Congress of the Trade Unions of Chilean Health Workers (1971; quoted by Gaete and Castanon, 1973:23-24):

with community participation [equivalent to our American consumer participation], our bourgeoisie gives our workers a feeling of participa­tion, but without an actual and authentic power of decision . . . with this policy the decisions that are taken by the bourgeoisie are legitimized by the participation of the workers, who not only don’t have any power of decision, but do not have the right to complain afterwards about those decisions either, since, in theory, the workers did participate in those decisions.

It was felt that, as another writer pointed out, “community participa­tion is an intent of co-option of the community dwellers and legitimiza­tion of the power of the bourgeoisie” (Germana, 1970:15).

fistsResponsive to a demand not for community participation but for community control, the Allende administration committed itself to the democratization of the health institutions, stating in their political plat­form dealing with the health sector that “the communities – people – are the most important resources in the health sector, both as producers and as decision makers” (Unidad Popular Party, 1970).

Democratiza­tion took place in other areas besides the health sector, although in that sector it did go further. A likely reason for this may have been that most of the health institutions, health centers, hospitals, and the like, were already in the public sector and more amenable to government influence. The majority of economic institutions, on the other hand, remained in the pri­vate sector.

The democratization of the health institutions took place via the executive committees, which, as their name suggests, were the execu­tive or top administrative authorities in each institution. They had a tripartite composition, with a third of the board elected by community organizations (trade unions, Federation of Chilean Women, farmers’ associations, etc.), another third elected by the workers and employees working in that institution, and one third appointed by the local and central government authorities.

Each  level elected the level above it­self, so that the executive committees of the health centers elected the executive committees of the community hospitals and these elected the executive committees of the regional hospitals. Their authority was limited to an over-all budget for each institution, and it had to be spent within the guidelines established by the planning authorities, which were in turn accountable to the central government.

How did this democratization work? Before replying to this question, I should point out that democratization was a result of popular and community pressure on the one side and the commitment of the ruling political parties to implement it on the other.

A key element for that implementation was the civil servants of the National Health Service, who mostly belonged to the opposition parties and whose outlook, like that of most civil servants in any country I know of, be it socialist or capitalist, tend to be conservative. By a large majority, 86 percent to be precise, they were in favor of community participation but against community  control (Albala and Santander, 1972:68).

Let me explain what I mean by the conservative attitude of the civil service.

Civil servants, or, as Miliband (1969) defines them, the “servants of the state,” tend to defend the status quo and thus tend to be conservative. As Crossman (1972) has said for the Labour Party in Britain, and Myrdal (1960) has said for the Social Democrats in Sweden, both parties have always encountered the unspoken resistance of the civil service when trying to implement their policies. And even in China, after thirty years of Communist Party rule, as the need to have a cultural revolution showed, the civil service opposed the changes advocated by powerful sectors of the ruling party (Robinson, 1969). Chile, then, was no exception.

chile-medical-association2Needless to say, another group that did not welcome democratiza­tion of the health institutions was the medical profession, and this added to the long list of grievances that the medical profession had against the Allende administration.

 

Democratization, however, proved to be quite popular among the citizens of the communities. A survey carried out for a doctoral thesis (Albala and Santander, 1972) found that the majority of community representatives interviewed expres­sed “satisfaction” to “active satisfaction” with the democratization of the health institutions.

Not surprisingly, community involve­ment with health institutions increased, side by side with the increased politicization of the population, which was the main charac­teristic of the period between 1970 and 1973.

Another example of community participation was the Councils for Distribution of Food and Price Controls (JAP), neighborhood committees created by communities to avoid speculation and oversee the distribution of popular items to consumers.9

The community-control movement was parallel and went hand in hand with the movement of  workers’ control, another commitment of the Allende administration.

Indeed, all 320 enterprises that were in the public sector during Allende’s 34 months as President were managed by an administrative council com­posed of five worker representatives (three blue-collar workers, one technical person, and one professional person), five state representatives, and one state-appointed administrator.

Let me add something here that my business school colleagues will very likely not believe.

An American scholar in Chile found, in a multivariate analysis of productivity in a sample of factories, that productivity in the factories was related to participation by both workers and employees in the process of decision making.

The variable of the political con­sciousness of the factory workers was more important in explaining increased participation and production than were other variables such as capital-labor ratio, technological complexity, technological type, size of the vertical or horizontal integration, and other factors (Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action, 1973:26- 28; Zimbalist and Stallings, 1973).

All these related movements of community and worker control grew parallel to the politicization of the population and increased rapidly after the first abortive attempt at a military coup on June 29, 1973, when, spontaneously, twenty factories were taken over  and di­rectly managed by both the workers and the communities. And it was in response to the first owners’ strike in October 1972 that the workers themselves took over the management of the factories. As Steenland (1973:18) has indicated:

the October offensive of the bourgeoisie further polarized the Chilean political scene. Every organization and almost every individual was forced to take a position for or against the government.

demonstration1

It was at this time that the Industrial Strife Committees were estab­lished to coordinate the management of all factories located within a vicinity or community and to set up committees within each factory  in charge of production, distribution, defense and mobilization.

These committees also stimulated the creation of the Neighborhood Commands, broadly based community committees in charge of the coordination of  community social services, including health, and the mobilization of the population (North American Con­gress on Latin America, 1973b:5).

These movements of community and worker control, stimulated at first by the Allende government, grew and achieved a momentum of their own, until they expanded into the main sectors of the economy and forced a hesitant government into a defensive position.

As Sweezy (1973) has indicated, the government went from a leadership position to one of a follower, far behind, and hesitant to grant what was being requested and demanded in those movements. And, as both Sweezy (1973) and Petras (1973) point out, it was this hesitancy that seems to have  partially stimulated the downfall of  the Unidad Popular government.

And speaking of hesitancy, let me describe the third characteristic of the Allende government in the health sector, the one in which it showed the greatest hesitation and the one that brought about the greatest opposition: the policy of ending two-class medicine, with integration of both the National Health Service and SERMENA into just one system. In the health sector, this policy was Allende’s Achilles’ heel.

The Intent of Creating a Classless Health Service

Allende had made a commitment, as part of his political platform, to create one national health service that would integrate both the  National Health Service and the voluntary health insurance  of SERMENA (Requena, 1971). This integrated system was never intended to include health services for the armed forces. A characteristic of the Allende administra­tion was his efforts not to antagonize the military, allowing and even encouraging the granting of special privileges to those in uniform (Rojas, 1973).10

How the integration of health services was to take place was not spelled out either in the Unidad Popular platform or in subsequent policy statements once Allende was in power. Fearful of further antagonizing the lumpenbourgeoisie, the middle classes and the med­ical profession, the UP government kept postponing the implementa­tion of this commitment for a more propitious time.

Opposition to the integration measure was expected from the lumpenbourgeoisie and middle classes, because integration would have meant a leveling off of their consumption of health services and the prospect of having to share the resources they had always en­joyed with the rest of the population.

woman-doctor-at-bedsideThe medical profession opposed integration for both professional and class reasons.

Among the former reasons was the fear of losing the much desired fee-for-service and “private practice” type of medicine typical of SERMENA. In addition, they feared that integration with the National Health Service would mean the loss of their indepen­dence and of their economic power.

Among the class reasons was the increasing curtailment of consumption that both the lumpenbourgeoisie and the middle classes experienced under the Allende administration as a result of an alleged scarcity of resources both outside and within the health sector.

Since much has been written on that scarcity of resources, allow me to dwell on this point for just a moment.

There is a widely held belief in some sectors of our academia and press that the cause for this scarcity of goods, commodities, and services, and even for the fall of the UP government, was the incompetence of the economic advisers to the Allende administration.

As one of the representatives of this belief, Paul N. Rosenstein-Rodan (1974:E12), recently wrote in the New York Times, “undergraduate economic students would have known better” than the economists advising the Chilean government.

According to this interpretation of the scarcities and of the fall of Allende, other possible explanatory factors, such as the U.S.-led economic blockade, the boycott of the production of goods and services by U.S. and Chilean economic and professional interests, and the manipulation of the international market by those interests to dam­age the Chilean balance of payments, are dismissed as mere “left wing demonologies.” Actually, in the widely publicized article by Rosenstein-Rodan quoted before, these factors are not mentioned once.

Since the acceptance of the idea of “economic incompetence” absolves the powerful economic and professional groups both internationally and in Chile of any major responsibility for the events in Chile, this interpretation of the scarcity of resources and of the fall of Allende is the most widely held, sup­ported, and circulated view, not only among those economic groups, but also among those sectors of the U.S. press and academia sympathetic to those groups.

Because this view is so frequently expressed both outside and within the health sector, let me present other alternate explana­tions for the scarcity of goods, commodities, and services under Al­lende.

When the UP government took office, 47 percent of the popula­tion were undernourished (North American Congress on Latin America, 1972:17), 68 percent of the nation’s workers were earning less  than what was officially defined as a subsistence wage, and there was an unemployment rate of 6 percent in Chile as a whole and a rate of 7.1 percent in Santiago (Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action, 1973:14 – 19).

The poorest 60 percent of Chilean families received only 28 percent of the national income, while the richest 6 percent received 46 percent (Steenland, 1973:9). Over one quarter of the population of Santiago lived in flimsy shacks without running water. Meanwhile, industrial production was running at only 75 percent capacity (Steenland, 1973).

Just one year after the UP took office, industrial production went up to 100 percent capacity, unemployment went down to 3.8 percent (5.5 percent in Santiago), workers received a 20 – 30 percent increase in real wages, and the percentage of the national income in wages went up from 51 percent in 1970 to 60.7 percent in 1971. Meanwhile, inflation was kept down to 22 percent in 1971, as com­pared to an average 26.5 percent in the years 1965 – 1970.

This dramatic increase of the purchasing power of the majority of the population and the larger availability of resources to all, not only to a few, created a great increase in the demand for goods and ser­vices, which as I indicated before was also reflected in the consump­tion of health services, primarily ambulatory health services.11

pyramid-of-people

Because of the increase in demand for basic goods such as food, the UP government had to import more than the usual 60 percent of food that Chile had to bring in from abroad. Chile, like the United Kingdom, has to import most of the food that it eats.

This increase in imported commodities, plus the decline by 28 percent in the international price of copper, which represented 80 percent of Chile’s foreign-exchange earnings, created a rapid shortage of foreign exchange and a rapid worsening in Chile’s balance of payments.

Compounding this situation was the “invisible” economic blockade, which started immediately after the UP government took office.

As Steenland (1973:10) points out, to fully understand the meaning of this economic blockade, you have to realize that in Chile, a country with a gross national product of about $10 billion, a gov­ernment budget of about $700 million and exports of about $1 billion, United States investments also amounted to a sizable $1 billion, con­trolling 20 percent of the Chilean industry, with participation in another 7 per cent cent. Steenland (1973:14) continues:

In the dominant industries, foreign interests controlled 30.4 percent and participated in another 13.2 percent . . . And aside from outright control through ownership, Chilean industry used largely U.S. machinery and was dependent on the U.S. for technology. This dependency was greatest where the industries were most modern, and in industries which were growing rapidly – rubber, electric machines, refinement of metals, and lumber. In addition to U.S. control through technology and ownership, the U.S. government also exercised great indirect economic power through international finance institutions.

Not surprisingly, then, when the Allende government nationalized the U.S.-dominated mining industry, the United States pressured the international lending institutions to deny new credits to the Chilean economy, with the result that the total loans and credits fell in just one year, 1971, from $525 million to just over $30 million.

For an excellent and detailed account of the economic blockade, see North American Congress on Latin America (1973a). The Santiago corespondent of the Washington Post (1973c:1,14), writing just after the coup described how the economic blockade helped to cripple Allende:

Since 1970, the Allende government has been the target of economic policies that have squeezed the fragile Chilean economy to the choking point.

These policies were conceived in an atmosphere of economic strife between the Allende government and a group of large U.S. corporations whose Chilean holdings were nationalized under the terms of Allende’s socialist platform.

The instruments for carrying out the sustained program of economic pressure against Allende were the U.S. foreign aid program, the Inter American Development Bank, the U.S. Export Import Bank, the World Bank and also private U.S. banking institutions . . . [one ex­ample of this blockade is that] one of the first actions under the new policy was the denial by the Export Import Bank of a request for $21 million in credit to finance purchase of three Boeing passenger jets by the Chilean government airline, LAN-Chile. The credit position of the air­line, according to a U.S. official familiar with the negotiations, was an excellent one.12

These credits were needed to buy not only foodstuffs, but also machinery, equipment, etc., and also to pay off the $3 billion foreign debt that the Frei government had left the nation, which made Chile the second most indebted country per capita in the world, after Israel (Steenland, 1973:14).

The lumpenbourgeoisie, dependent on foreign capital, joined the external boycott with an internal one together with explicitly political strikes aimed at causing the fall of the UP government or triggering a military coup. One part of this boycott was the truck owners’ strike that paralyzed the system of transport and hindered food distribution, thus compounding existing scarcities (Steenland, 1973:16).

crowd4

It was the greatly increased demand for basic goods and services plus the politically motivated shortages, the result of both the international blockade and the lumpenbourgeoisie boycott, that deter­mined the need to ration basic goods.

Not unlike rationing in other countries, the ones more opposed to that rationing were the upper rather than the lower classes. For the lower classes, the “free market” supported by the wealthy was in  itself a form of rationing where the criteria for the distribution of food was based on the con­sumer power of the rich. Thus, the lower classes were far more sym­pathetic to formal rationing, where the criteria for the distribution of resources were defined by a government that was, at least in theory, sympathetic to their needs.

The weekly paper Ercilla (1973), which was not sympathetic to the UP, published an opinion poll showing that the success of the Allende government distribution policies lay in the fact that 75 percent of lower-class householders found that essential goods had become easier to obtain, while 77 percent of middle-class and 93 percent of high-income households were finding them less accessible. The medical profession, very much a part of these latter classes, were among those who were finding essential goods less accessible.

As a Chilean folk song says, sharing the riches, my son, is for some to have less and for others to have more.

The period 1970 – 1973 in Chile saw an attempt to redefine this idea of sharing. Not surprisingly, the medical profession and the classes they belonged to, the lumpenbourgeoisie and the middle classes, did not want to have their class and professional privileges redefined. Nor were they willing to tolerate the integration of health services into one system where they would have to share their resources with the majority of Chileans.

The Fall of the Allende Administration

protest

As I have explained, the delay in integrating the two-class medical system into one system revealed the UP government’s hesitancy, which was greatest in the health sector, al­though it was a “trademark” of the Al­lende administration in other areas as well. As Sweezy (1973) has noted, the political strategy of the UP government seems to have been to increase its popular support while trying to avoid or post­pone confrontation with the lumpenbourgeoisie and middle classes.

This strategy seemed a valid one in the first year of the administration, when the parties forming the UP coalition, which had polled 36.3 percent of the vote in the presidential election, just five months later, in April 1971, increased their share of the vote to 51.0 percent, in a municipal election that was based on the question of support or opposition to the UP government (Steenland, 1973:10).

The weakness of this strategy, however, was that it meant post­ponement not only of the integration of the health services, but also of promised policies in other sectors, and this gave the medical profes­sion and other groups and classes the time to organize their opposition, which they did legally in 1972 and then illegally in 1973.

As Sweezy (1973) and Petras (1973) have indicated, the UP seems to have underestimated the power of the response of the national bourgeoisie and its international counterparts. A summary list of events shows this. (For a detailed list of events during the Allende administration, see Steenland, 1973; Zimbalist and Stallings, 1973; Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action, 1973; North American Congress on Latin America, 1973a and 1973b.)

In October 1972, the truck owners staged their first strike against the government, in theory to delay any attempt by the administration to nationalize transport, but in practice to force the resignation of the government.

The medical profession, following a call by the Chilean Medical Association, followed with a strike that was in theory to pro­test the lack of availability of equipment in the health sector, but, again, in practice, it was meant to force the Allende government to resign. In fact, organized medicine did call for the resignation of Al­lende at this time.

A passing but interesting note here is that the public health physicians, with a great number of faculty and students from the School of Public Health, as well as the majority of the trade unions of health workers, came to the support of the government. Their rallying call, which was to become a slogan later on, was the very nonsectarian one of “this government is shit, but it is our government.”

The 1972 strike did not succeed.

The second great moment of difficulty for Allende’s government was in July 1973, when the second strike of the truck owners took place with the explicit aim either of causing the fall of Allende or stimulating a military coup.

The medical profession joined in with renewed requests for Allende’s resignation. And, in an almost unani­mous resolution, the Chilean Medical Association expelled President Allende from its membership. Dr. Allende, I might mention here, had been one of the first officers of the association when it was founded.

kissinger-and-pinochet

Meanwhile, from the end of 1972, the truck owners, the professionals (including the Chilean Medical Association), the Chilean Chamber of Commerce, and other groups representative of national and international economic interests, had been planning, together with the military leaders, the military coup of September 11, 1973, which achieved what they had sought, the fall of the Unidad Popular government. This fact was later admitted by the military leaders and reported by the New York Times (Kandell, 1973c), 13

The Chilean Medical Association was the first professional association to send a telegram of support to the junta, applauding their “patriotism.”

It seems, then, that the  fear and hesitancy of the Allende gov­ernment brought about its end. The leadership’s belief that time was on their side apparently proved to be a self-defeating strategy.14

The dramatic successes and the great popularity of the government during the first year were not used to advantage. The  UP would have gained strength and weakened its opponents had it implemented its integration and democratization policies in the health sector and in other sectors of the economy.

The Response of the Reaction15

Not surprisingly, the military junta, the voice of those interests were curtailed during the Allende administration, including those of the medical profession, has undone most of the advances that the working class and peasantry achieved during the period 1970 – 1973. This has taken place both outside as well as inside the health sector.

 

chilean-military2

Let me list some of the most important changes brought about by the junta.

First, the project of integrating the two-class medicine has been abandoned, with a declared commitment by the junta to leave the fee­-for-service system of payment in SERMENA untouched. There has even been talk within military circles of changing the system of payment to physicians within the National Health Service from salary to fee-for-service (Chilean Ministry of Public Health, 1973b).

A col­onel has been appointed Minister of Health, and the treasurer of the Chilean Medical Association has been appointed Director General of the National Health Service.

In other sectors of the economy, the junta has returned to the initial owners, to the private sector, most of the industries nationalized during the UP administration (Washington Post, 1973e) and said that it would pay for the remaining ones on generous terms (Kandell, 1973e).

According to an interview with General Pinochet, the head of the junta, published in La Prensa (1973b:14), the leadership wants to open negotiations with the U.S. former owners of the nationalized copper mines on terms favorable to the U.S. companies, since “it is not ethi­cal that we Chileans take over what does not belong to us.”

An economic policy has been established aimed at encouraging foreign investments on very favorable and generous terms to foreign capital (La Prensa, 1973b). Furthermore, a policy has been instituted that encourages foreign investments, mimicking the “brotherly regime of Brazil” (Washington Post, 1973i:12).

bookJust one month after the coup, the World Bank (which had denied loans to Chile for three years), together with the Inter American Bank, loaned $260 million to the new government. The Allende administration had tried unsuccessfully  for three years to get this loan (Rubin, 1973). As the president of the Chilean Bank, General Eduardo Cano, said, “the World Bank and international financial circles were well disposed to the new military government in Chile” (Washington Post, 1973h: A32).

Further proof of this good will is that the Latin American Development Bank, which turned down every request made by the Allende government, is about to award a development loan to the junta that is almost five times the size of all the loans received during the Allende administration (Birns, 1973).16

One month after the coup, the Nixon administration in the United States approved a $24 million credit to the junta, for the purchase of 120,000 tons of wheat. This credit, as Senator Kennedy indicated on the floor of the U.S. Senate (Washington Post, 1973g: All) “was eight times the total commodity offered to Chile in the past three years when a democratically elected government was in power.”

Second, the coup, which was a bonanza for the Chilean lumpen­bourgeoisie and middle classes and their international counterparts, meant belt-tightening for the working class and peasantry in the health sector and other sectors of the nation.

In the  health sector, institutional democracy was automatically discontinued a week after the coup. And the Minister of Public Health, a colonel, declared that in matters of policy the military would rely “very heavily on the good judgment and patriotic commitment of the Chilean Medical Association” (Chilean Ministry of Public Health, 1973c).

At the same time, the Chilean Medical Association sent a delegation abroad to several foreign countries, including Uruguay, Brazil, and the United States, to strengthen a scientific ex­change with their professional colleagues and equivalent organizations in those countries. The Chilean Medical Association also reassured the military junta of its complete support (El Mercurio, 1973c).

Outside the health sector, the junta discontinued workers’ control of the factories, returning them to the previous managers (Kandell, 1973d), and, at the same time banned trade unions, incarcerating the national leaders of the trade unions, including those of the health worker unions (Kandell, 1973b).

In addition, all political party activities were forbidden, and all working-class-based parties were outlawed (Washington Post, 1973b). Only those the junta defines as “patriots” are entitled to any form of civil rights. The narrow­ness of their definition may be reflected by the declaration of General Pinochet, head of the military junta, accusing “the U.S. Senate of being under the influence of international communism” (La Prensa, 1973a:14).

Third, the junta changed the priorities in the health services. The amount of resources available to the health centers was reduced and the amount available to the hospitals increased. The number of hours that physicians have to spend in health centers was halved, and the hours the centers are open to the public were shortened to the 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. schedule of pre-Allende times. Moreover, the milk-distribution program was discontinued (Chilean Ministry of Pub­lic Health, 1973d, e, f).

Outside the health sector, price controls were discontinued and the goods desired by the upper and middle classes are now plentiful in the stores. The working class and peasantry, meanwhile, as reported by the New York Times (Kandell, 1974:10), are going through very tough times of tight budgeting.

Fourth, all opposition was outlawed and persecuted, and in the health sector a campaign of repression was begun against those physi­cians and health workers who did not join the physicians’ strike against Allende’s government, who were considered sympathetic to Allende, and whose names were provided to the police authorities by the Chilean Medical Association (Argus, 1974).

A campaign of repression was started against the public health movement, which largely supported the Allende administration.

chilean-military

The budget of Chile’s only school of public health, which is situated in Santiago and is the most prestigious school of its kind in Latin America, was slashed by three-quarters, and 82 faculty members out of a total of 110 were fired and some imprisoned (American Public Health Associa­tion, 1973). As the Chilean Ministry of Public Health (1973a) stated, “Very many public health workers were misguided and their activities were subversive of the traditional medical values.”

Medical schools and all other university centers have been placed under military control. All presidents and deans of academic institu­tions are now military men. As Dr. E. Boeninger, the last president of the University of Chile, said, “The Chilean University is in the hands of the military” (El Mercurio, 1973b:12).

The known results of this repression in the health field are that 21 physicians have been shot, 85 imprisoned, and countless others dis­missed (Chilean Medical Doctors in Exile, 1974).

Outside the health sector, the junta has instituted a campaign of repression that has been defined by Amnesty International as the most brutal that that association has ever surveyed, more brutal even than the repression in Brazil in 1965, Greece in 1968 and Uruguay in 1972 (New York Review of Books, 1974). Today, ten months after the coup, the state of siege continues (Gott, 1974).

Epilogue

It may be too soon to make a post-mortem of performance of the Allende administration in the health sector. But still, enough knowl­edge of those years has been accumulated to entitle us to draw some conclusions.

One important interpretation of these events may be that Chile seems to show, once again, what Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and many other Latin American countries have shown before – that there is a rigidity in the economic, political, and social structures of most Latin American countries that makes evolutionary change almost an impossibility, how­ever slow or gradual that change may be.

The lumpenbourgeoisie and their foreign counterparts offer extremely strong opposition to any movement that might curtail their benefits in any way. They perceive that any con­cession creates a momentum that might escalate, accord­ing to the sadly famous “domino theory,” to the final destruction of their privileges. The reaction of these groups to the UP government in Chile is an example of this.

strike-a-matchActually, in spite of the alarm that the Unidad Popu­lar administration created in U.S. corridors of power, Allende’s government was not a “radical” one.

As the pro-UP economist Al­berto Martinez indicated, even if all the programs for nationalization that the UP government called for had been implemented, it would have meant state control of only 25  percent of industrial production outside of the mining sector, which is less than the control of that production by U.S. interests, estimated to be close to 30 percent (quoted by Steenland, 1973:12).

Allende himself argued:

I want to insist that Chile is not a socialist country. This is a capitalist country and my government is not a socialist government. This is a popu­lar, democratic, national revolutionary government – anti-imperialist (Washington Post, 1973f:C1) .

Indeed, he emphasized that the UP was an “anti-imperialist and anti-monopolistic government, more than a socialist one” (Debray, 1971:85). And he held that it was “not a socialist government, rather, there is a government that is going to open the path, to blaze the path for socialism” (Allende, 1971).

The major economic decisions taken by Allende were the nationalization of the copper industry and the takeover of the control of banking and most foreign commerce, measures that were more anti-oligarchy and nationalist than socialist.

Concerning his interior policies, a UP economist (Monthly Review, 1971:17) has explained that Allende’s economic policy was of the nature that we in the United States

would call the New Deal type . . . [since] it combines a policy of large-scale public works (especially housing and related services) with fiscal and monetary measures designed to stimulate popular purchasing power . . . [and with] strict price controls [which ] would keep these gains from being dissipated as has regularly been the case in the past, through inflation.

Not surprisingly, Allende has been called the Léon Blum of Chile. Actually, his reforms could hardly be accused of being an intrin­sic threat to the capitalist system. In spite of this, na­tional and international interests perceived his programs as being the beginning of the end for them.

Opposition to UP economic policies was formidable, showing how, inside the parame­ters of underdevelopment and within present structures, the pos­sibilities for change, however limited, are very small indeed. Allende underestimated this opposition.

The gradualism and the faith of the UP leadership in the “uniqueness” of the Chilean phenomenon (considered by some to be unhistorical), together with their postponement of policies that would have weakened their opponents, allowed time for national and international interests to organize their opposition.17 The postponement of the integration of health services is a fitting case in point.

In that respect, Allende’s delays may have caused his down­fall. Contrary to prevalent belief in some sectors of the U.S. press, the cause of Allende’s downfall may not have been because he moved too quickly but because he moved too slowly. Indeed, as Oskar Lange (1938; quoted in Monthly Review, 1971:40) said almost forty years ago, if

a socialist government . . . declares that the textile industry is going to be socialized after five years, we can be quite certain that the textile industry will be ruined before it will be socialized . . . [during those five years] no government supervision or administrative measures can cope effec­tively with the passive resistance and sabotage of the owners and mana­gers.

It is my belief that this observation applies to the health sector as well as to other areas. Many proposals for national health insurance schemes and/or national health services have been frustrated because of delays in their implementation and because of final compromises with the medical profession and with other in­terest groups in the health sector.

Actually, the Chilean experience reflects the experience of other countries, be they socialist or capitalist: when a political party or group is committed  to a national health program intended to benefit the citizenry and to curtail the privileges of the providers, its chances of implementation are inversely related to the length of time required for implementation.

solidarityWe can see that, in Chile, the longer the delay, the more time there was for the interest groups to organize and achieve compromises that diluted and subtracted from the program. And these compromises, I might add, can only benefit the providers, not the consumers, the majority of the citizenry.

There are certain conclusions, then, that we can derive from the events in Chile.

One is that the present political structures in most of Latin America (and in most of the underdeveloped world) hinder, rather than foster, any opportunity to bring about a change that would benefit not just the few, but the many. The national and international economic elites control those political structures to maintain outdated and grossly unjust political, social, and economic privileges in opposition to the popular demands of the majority of the population.

A second conclusion would be that gradualism by those parties and groups in underdeveloped countries that are committed to change weakens the possibilities for change in the health sector and in other areas. The Chilean workers and peasants, the real heroes of the tragedy that was played out in Chile, clearly understood this when they kept urging the Allende government to proceed with reform at a faster pace.

And when, after the first, unsuccessful, military coup, Chilean society began increasingly to polarize, it was the working class and the peasantry, in their work places, their factories, their hospitals and health centers, and in their communities, who began to mobilize and to prepare themselves for the coming second coup.

They have lost, for the time being, and the privileged classes and their military brute force have won. As the poet Pablo Neruda (1963:111) wrote almost forty years ago, on the day that another military coup took place, in Spain, hope lived in the hearts of the people,

Till one morning everything blazed:
one morning bonfires
sprang out of earth
and devoured all the living;
since then, only fire,
since then, the blood and the gunpowder, ever since then.
Bandits in airplanes
and marauders with seal rings and duchesses
black friars and brigands signed with the cross, coming out of the clouds to a slaughter of innocents.

crowd-for-allende

NOTES

1. First published in the spring of 1974 as “What Does Chile Mean: An Analysis of Events in the Health Sector Before, During, and After Allende’s Administration,” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, 52:2, pp. 93-130. Based on a presentation to the International Health Seminar at Harvard University, Boston, February, 1974. Republished here by permission of the author, Vicente Navarro, M.D., Johns Hopkins University, 615 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Md 21205, USA.

2. For an accurate report of the events that took place during and after the coup, see the dispatches from Santiago by the correspondents of the Washington Post and Le Monde, and by J. Kandell (1973a-e) of the New York Times. The Santiago correspondents of the Wall Street Journal are notoriously inaccurate. For an excellent detailed critique of the misinformation provided by the Wall Street Journal, see Birns (1973).

3. The upper class includes the monopolistic bourgeoisie, the large agrarian bourgeoisie, the large landowners, the large urban non-monopolistic bourgeoisie, and the small and medium urban bourgeoisie. The middle class includes the petite bourgeoisie, the professionals, the white collars, state civil servants, and large sectors of the middle echelons of the armed forces. The working class includes the workers in monopolistic and large industries (the best-organized and most politicized workers in Chile), the workers in small and medium-sized industries, and the subproletariat. The peasantry includes the farm workers and sharecroppers. For an excellent description of each class, see the Popular Action Unity Movement (MAPU) pamphlet, “The Character of the Chilean Revolution,” published as Chapter 10 in Johnson (1973).

4. In terms of income distribution, in the 1960s this was as follows: “five percent of the population, composed mainly of urban owners of capital, receives 40 percent of national income; twenty percent of the population, mainly urban employees, receives 40 percent of national income; fifty percent of the population, mainly urban workers in industry and trade, receives 15 percent of national income; and twenty-five percent of the population, mainly rural agricultural workers, receives 5 percent of national income” Frank (1969:106).

5. Before 1952, labor insurance and welfare systems took care of blue-collar workers (although not these workers’ families) and the poor.

6. Full-time physicians working for the National Health Service are supposed to work, in theory, six hours a day, being paid on a salary basis. The arrangements for part-time physicians are similar to those in the National Health Service in Britain, with privileges for “amenity beds” for the physicians’ private clientele within the National Health service hospitals.

7. The parties of the coalition included the Socialist and Communist Parties, the most powerful within the coalition, the Radical Party (a lower-middle-class party), MAPU (United Popular Action Movement), and the IC (Christian Left). These two last parties were split-offs from the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), the main bourgeoisie party. To the left of the UP coalition parties, there were the MIR (Revolutionary Left Move­ment) and the PCR (Revolutionary Communist Party), two very small radical left par­ties which did not participate in, but supported, the UP government.

8. There is voluminous literature in both the United States and the United Kingdom on consumer participation. For a representative view in the United States, see Sheps (1972) and in the United Kingdom, see Weaver (1971). For a description of the roles of the district community councils, see Great Britain, Ministry of Health (1972).

9. The JAPs originated in 1971 to assist in the distribution process, making sure that local shopkeepers did not charge above the official prices and that they did not divert items to the black market (Zimbalist and Stallings, 1973).

10. This policy was part of a deliberate intent by Allende to co-opt the military, which traditionally has had very strong ties with the U.S. military. It is interesting to note that in 1973 , at the height of the economic blockade against Chile, Chile’s armed forces remained, along with Venezuela’s, the main recipients in Latin America of U.S. aid for training officers. And when no other public agency or department within the UP gov­ernment could get international loans and credit, the Chilean military received credit to buy F5E supersonic jets (North American Congress on Latin America, 1973b:8). Actu­ally, the U.S. granted to the military in Chile a total of $45.5 million in aid during fiscal years 1971 to 1974, double the total granted in the previous four years. As Admiral Raymond Peet testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee, “One of the big advantages that accrues to the United States from such a foreign sales program is the considerable influence we derive from providing the support for these aircraft” (North American Congress on Latin America, 1973b:9; Monthly Review, 1971).

11. One of the goods whose consumption increased most as a result of the growth in  purchasing power of the working class and peasantry was beef. Under the Alessandri  administration (1958- 1964) a worker had to labor five hours, 35 minutes to buy a kilo of stewing beef; under Frei, four hours, 53 minutes; but under the UP, a worker had to labor only two hours to buy the same amount (North American Congress on Latin America, 1972).

12. The credit to buy these Boeing jets was granted just two weeks after the coup (Washington Post, 1973d).

13. It has been said, particularly by conservative voices, that the military coup was a necessary response to the “lawlessness of the masses,” which seems to be their  code name for the mass mobilization of the lower classes. This argument deliberately ignores the documented fact, recognized even by the junta itself, that the military started plan­ning the coup as early as six months after Allende’s administration took office and one year before the spontaneous mobilization the working class took place. Moreover, the first mass mobilization occurred, as indicated in the text, after, not before, the first (unsuccessful) coup took place. In that respect, the historical sequence shows that the mobilization was a response by the working class to the military and strike threats from the lumpenbourgeoisie and the armed forces, not vice versa.

14. The main architect of this evolutionary strategy within the coalition of the Unidad Popular parties was the Communist Party.

15. Information published in this section relies very heavily on the dispatches from the correspondents in Chile of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Le Monde, as well as information from Chilean and other witnesses who were part of these events. Additional information is from Sweezy (1973); Petras (1973); Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (1973); North American Congress on Latin America (1973a; 1973b).

16. According to U.S. News and World Report (1973), U.S. bankers have decided to provide short-term loans to private and government banks totaling $39 million, to aid the Chilean economy.

17. As an ITT memorandum indicated, “a realistic hope among those who want to block Allende is that a swiftly deteriorating economy . . . will touch off a wave of violence, resulting in a military coup” (Washington Post, 1973a:A2).

REFERENCES

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Albala, C., and P. Santander
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Allende, S.
1971    Interview, Meet the Press 15 (October 13). American Public Health Association
1973    Letter, Ad Hoc Committee to Save Chilean Health Workers (December), New York.

Argus, A.
1974    ”Medicine and politics in Chile.” World Medicine (April 10):15 – 29.

Birns, L. R.
1973    ”Chile in the Wall Street Journal.” The Nation 217 (December): 581 -587. Chilean Medical Doctors in Exile
1974    Letter, “An appeal from Chilean medical doctors in exile.” (March) Lima, Peru.

Chilean Ministry of Public Health
1950    The National Health Service. Santiago: Subdepartment of Health Educa­tion. In Spanish.
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Chilean Trade Unions of Health Workers
1971 Political Organization of the Community, Popular Power and Democratiza­tion of Health. Santiago: First Congress of the Trade Unions of Health Workers. Mimeographed. In Spanish.

Cockroft, J. D., A. G. Frank, and D. L. Johnston
1972  Dependence and Underdevelopment: Latin America’s Political Economy. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.

Crossman, R.
1972    Inside View: Three Lectures on Prime Ministerial Government. London: Jonathan Cape.

Debray, R.
1971    The Chilean Revolution: Conversations with Allende. New York: Vintage Books.

Department of Human Resources, Pan American Health Organization
1973    Health Manpower in the Americas. Washington, D.C.

Diaz, S.
1966    ”Family health expenditures.” Cuademos Medico-Sociales VII(4):21- 26. In Spanish.

Ercilla (Santiago)
1973    Ercilla (September 13 – 19):10. In Spanish.

Feinberg, R. E.
1972    The Triumph of Allende: Chile’s Legal Revolution. New York: Mentor Books.

Frank, A. G.
1969    Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America: Historical Studies of Chile and Brazil. New York and London: Monthly Review Press.
1973    Lumpenbourgeoisie: Lumpendevelopment- Dependence, Class, and Politics in Latin America. New York and London: Monthly Review Press.

Gaete, J., and R. Castanon
1973    The Development of the Medical Care Institutions in Chile During This Century. Santiago: University of Chile. Mimeographed. In Spanish.

Germana, C.
1970    ”The state and the marginal masses in Chile.” Bolletin ELAS 4(6). In Spanish.

Gott, R.
1974    ”Chile keeps state of siege.” Manchester Guardian Weekly 110 (June 29):7.

Great Britain, Ministry of Health
1972    National Health Service Reorganization: England. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Command 5055.

Hall, T. L., and S. Diaz
1971    “Social security and health care patterns in Chile.” International Journal of Health Services 1 (November):362- 377.
Johnson, D. L. (ed.)
1973    The Chilean Road to Socialism. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press.

Kandell, J.
1973a   New York Times (September 20):14.
1973b   “Military junta in Chile prohibits Marxist parties.”  New York Times (September 22):1 and 3.
1973c   “Chilean officers tell how they began to plan the takeover last November.” New York Times (September 27):3.
1973d  “Ousted bosses back at Chile’s plants.” New York Times (September 25):3.
1973e  “Chile offers to reopen talks on copper.” New York Times (Sep­tember 29):3.
1974    ”Chile four months later.” New York Times (January 28): 10.

Lange, O.
1938 “On the economic theory of socialism.” In Lange, O., and F. M. Taylor, On the Economic Theory of Socialism. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press. Reprinted in Monthly Review 22 (January): 38-44.

Laval, E.
1944    ”The biography of Don Alejandro del Rio.” Journal of Social Welfare XIII (July and December). In Spanish.

Laval, E., and R. Garcia
1956    ”Synthesis of the historical development of public health in Chile.” Journal of the National Health Service I (October). In Spanish.

El Mercurio (Santiago)
1973a    ”Support of the professional organizations for the revolutionary govern­ment.” El Mercurio (September 18). In Spanish.
1973b    ”Military delegates in universities.” El Mercurio (September 29):12. In Spanish.
1973c    ”Starting anew in curative medicine.” El Mercurio (November 9):12. In Spanish.

Miliband, R.
1969    The State in Capitalist Society. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Le Monde
1973    ”The repression in Chile” Le Monde (October 10). In French.

Le Monde Diplomatique
1973    ”The Chilean coup” Le Monde Diplomatique (October 13 – 17). In French.

Monthly Review
1971    ”Peaceful transition to socialism?” Editorial. Monthly Review 22(January):1 – 18.

Myrdal, G.
1960    Beyond the Welfare State. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Navarro, V.
1974  “The underdevelopment of health or the health of underdevelopment: an analysis of the distribution of human health resources in Latin America.” Politics and Society Vol. 4, pp. 267 – 293.

Navarro, V., and A. P. Ruderman (eds.)
1971    ”Health and socioeconomic development.” International Journal of Health Services, special issue 1 (August).

Neruda, P.
1963 “A Few Things Explained.” The Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda, trans­lated by B. Belitt. New York: Grove Press. Originally published 1947, in Tercera Residencia, 1935-1945. Buenos Aires: Losada.

New York Review of Books
1974    Terror in Chile. New York Review of Books XXI (May 30):38- 44.

North American Congress on Latin America
1972    New Chile. Berkeley and New York: North American Congress on Latin America.
1973a    ”Chile facing the blockade.” Issue of Latin America and Empire Report VII(January).
1973b    ”Chile: the story behind the coup.” Issue of Latin America and Empire Report VII(October).

Petras, J.
1970    Politics and Social Structure in Latin America. New York and London: Monthly Review Press.
1973    ”Chile after Allende: a tale of two coups.” Monthly Review 25 (December):12 – 20.

La Prensa (Santiago)
1973a    ”General Pinochet said that the U.S. Senate is under the influence of Communism.” La Prensa (October 22).
1973b    ”Interview with General Pinochet.” La Prensa (October 22).

Requena, M.
1971 “Program of ambulatory medical care in the National Health Service.” Report of the Director-General of Health, No. 1 (November). Santiago: Ministry of Public Health.

Robinson, J.
1969    The Cultural Revolution in China. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Rojas, R.
1973 “The Chilean armed forces: the role of the military in the Popular Unity Government.” In Johnson, D. L. (ed.), The Chilean Road to Socialism. Garden City, New York: Anchor Press.

Rosenstein-Rodan, P. N.
1974    ”Allende’s big failing: incompetence.” New York Times (June 16).

Rubin, B.
1973    ”How the U.S. intervened in Chile.” The Guardian 26 (December 26):16.

Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action
1973    ”Chile.” Issue of the Bulletin of the Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action 5(6).

Sepulveda, P. S.
1972    ”Analysis of health expenditures in Chile.” Santiago: University of Chile. Mimeographed.
1973    ”Perspectives for a revolutionary change in Chilean medical care.” San­tiago: University of Chile. Mimeographed. In Spanish.

Sheps, C.
1972    ”The influence of consumer sponsorship on medical services.” Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly 50, No. 4 (October- Part 2):41 – 69.

Sigerist, H. E.
1956    Landmarks in the History of Hygiene. London. Oxford University Press.

Steenland, K.
1973    ”Two years of ‘Popular Unity’ in Chile: a balance sheet.” New Left Re­view 78 (March- April):3- 25.

Sweezy, P. M.
1973    ”Chile: the question of power.” Monthly Review 25 (December):1 – 11.

Terris, M.
1973    ”Crisis and change in America’s health system.” American Journal of Pub­lic Health 63 (April):313 – 318.

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1970    Political Platform of the Unidad Popular Party. Santiago: Unidad Popular Press. In Spanish.

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1970    Social Change and Social Development in Latin America. E/CN.12/826. New York: United Nations.

U.S. News and World Report
1973    ”Links with Chile revive.” U.S. News and World Report 75(23, De­cember 3):85.

Washington Post
1973a    Washington Post (September 16).
19736    ”Chilean junta dissolves labor group.” Washington Post (September 16):A26.
1973c    ”U.S. puts credit squeeze on Allende government.” Washington Post (Sep­tember 24).
1973d    Washington Post (September 20).
1973e    ”Chileans draft recovery plan.” Washington Post (September 24).
I973f    ”Chile’s Allende: a prophetic interview.” Washington Post (September 28).
1973g    ”Chile gets U.S. loan for wheat.” Washington Post (October 6).
1973h    ”Chile claims favor of West’s bankers.” Washington Post (October 8).
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Weaver, N. D. W.
1971    ”Community participation in the welfare state and hospitals.” The Hospital 67 (October):347- 351.

Zimbalist, A., and B. Stallings
1973    ”Showdown in Chile.” Monthly Review 25 (October):1- 24.

I would like to acknowledge the important assistance of many Chilean friends and colleagues in collecting the information presented in this paper. I want to thank Christopher George and Kathy Kelly for their invaluable assistance in editing and preparing the original manuscript.

– Vicente Navarro

Ministers Must Explain Destruction of ‘Torture Flight’ Papers, Says Panel of MPs August 9, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Criminal Justice.
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Published on Sunday, August 9, 2009 by The Observer/UK

Foreign affairs select committee calls for disclosure on why Diego Garcia documents have vanished

by Mark Townsend

Ministers must explain why crucial documents relating to CIA “torture flights” that stopped on sovereign British territory were destroyed, a panel of MPs has said.

[Britain's Foreign Minister David Miliband looks on ahead of an European Union Foreign Ministers meeting on Iran in Corfu June 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis/Files)]Britain’s Foreign Minister David Miliband looks on ahead of an European Union Foreign Ministers meeting on Iran in Corfu June 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis/Files)

A damning appraisal by the influential foreign affairs select committee on Britain’s role in the rendition of terror suspects and alleged complicity of torture condemns the government’s lack of transparency on vital areas of concern.In particular, the MPs, in a report released today, call for an explanation for the missing papers, which might explain the role of Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory, in the US’s “extraordinary rendition” programme. The report says: “We recommend that the government discloses how, why and by whom the records relating to flights through Diego Garcia since the start of 2002 were destroyed.”

Foreign secretary David Miliband admitted 18 months ago that two US planes refuelled on the Indian Ocean island. The committee now wants a detailed account of the record-keeping and disposal policy regarding flights through the territory and “elsewhere through UK airspace”.

It also criticises the government’s inability to offer assurances that ships anchored outside Diego Garcia’s waters were not involved in the rendition programme. “The government must address the use of UK airspace for empty flights that may be part of a rendition circuit,” says the report.

Amnesty International said the MPs’ verdict underlined the need for a full, independent inquiry into the UK’s involvement in “war on terror” and human rights abuses.

The committee also voiced disquiet over claims that British intelligence officers were complicit in the torture of detainees held overseas. According to documents revealed by the high court last month, an MI5 officer visited Morocco three times during the time British resident Binyam Mohamed claims he was secretly interrogated and tortured there.

Of concern to the foreign affairs committee were claims relating to the involvement of the British security services and the practices of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence officers, who are known to routinely condone torture.

Details of the investigations the government has carried out into any of the claims should be made public, according to MPs. Mike Gapes, chairman of the committee, said it was time ministers also disclosed the guidance given at the time to intelligence officers interviewing suspects.

He said details of people captured by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and placed in US custody should be divulged as part of a drive to improve transparency. The committee report notes: “We conclude that the potential treatment of detainees transferred by UK forces to the Afghan authorities gives cause for concern, given that there is credible evidence that torture and other abuses occur within the Afghani criminal justice system.”

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

Gaza invasion: ‘If you’re not sure – kill’ July 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
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Israeli soldiers’ accounts of January siege betray little regard for civilians
DEADLY TACTICS

TheStar.com

AP FILE PHOTO
An Israeli gunner covers his ears as a mobile artillery piece fires at a target in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 4, 2009 during the bloody three-week offensive known as Operation Cast Lead.

Oakland Ross

Toronto Star, July 15, 2009

JERUSALEM – Israeli soldiers who invaded the Gaza Strip in January received no clear rules of engagement and operated with a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality that significantly increased the danger to civilians.

“If you’re not sure – kill,” confessed one of the soldiers who gave his testimony anonymously to an Israeli organization that gathers front-line reports from Israeli soldiers. “The firepower was insane. We went in, and the booms were just mad. The minute we got to our starting line, we simply began firing at suspect places. In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy. No innocents. It was simply urban warfare in every way.”

His remarks underline the central theme of the accounts from Israeli soldiers who participated in the three-week operation, code-named Cast Lead, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, according to a Palestinian count, and inflicted extensive physical destruction. Thirteen Israelis were killed.

“Very few soldiers ever heard in the briefings, `Guys – be careful about innocent people,'” said Yehuda Shaul, head of Breaking the Silence, the Israeli organization that gathers and publishes the testimony. “That’s the most disturbing and disappointing thing.”

A veteran of many Israel Defense Forces’ operations, Shaul said the invasion of Gaza that began Dec. 27 marked a departure from previous Israeli military practice.

“Cast Lead was something different,” he said. “We had an opening-fire policy. `You see something you’re scared of – you shoot.’ We were shocked. This is not the IDF I know.”

Shaul was reacting to the contents of a 110-page book being released by his organization today, containing the testimony of 26 Israeli soldiers who participated in the operation, including 14 young conscripts as well as a dozen older, more experienced reservists. The Star received an advance copy of the text.

Again and again, the soldiers who were interviewed in the book insisted they were given little if any guidance about human-rights considerations before being sent into Gaza, which is ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas.

Instead, they understood they were to do whatever seemed necessary to protect themselves, even if that meant shooting non-combatants without warning or destroying buildings without knowing who might be inside. The operation was aimed at stopping Palestinian militants from firing rockets at civilian targets in southern Israel.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have issued damning reports about the IDF’s conduct of the invasion, charging Israeli forces with possible war crimes.

The two reports also accuse Hamas of war crimes, including deliberate and sometimes deadly rocket attacks on civilian targets.

For its part, Israel insists its armed forces took heroic measures to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, and it is not alone. Last month, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, told a Jerusalem audience the IDF did more to safeguard the welfare of civilians during Operation Cast Lead “than any other army in the history of warfare.”

The IDF and its supporters point to measures the Israelis took to warn Palestinian civilians to flee areas about to come under attack. Those warnings were transmitted in Arabic by air-dropped leaflets, tens of thousands of phone calls, and loudspeakers.

The troops interviewed by Shaul’s organization mostly entered Gaza after such warnings were issued, and they appear to have operated on the assumption any Palestinian who remained behind rather than flee was an adversary, not an innocent. The ground troops consistently describe the use of massive Israeli firepower, even while acknowledging they encountered little Palestinian resistance.

The soldiers sometimes use a lurid vernacular, such as the terms “wet entry” and “dry entry” to distinguish between two different ways of securing the interior of a building.

A wet entry involves the use of considerable offensive weaponry prior to entering the building – in order to kill or disable anyone inside – while a dry entry bars the use of weapons until enemy personnel are actually encountered.

“Missiles, tank fire, machine-gun fire into the house, grenades,” said one of the soldiers, describing a typical wet entry. “Shoot as we enter a room. The idea was that, when we enter a house, no one there could fire at us.”

Shaul said it’s clear from the soldiers’ testimony that wet entries were the rule during the offensive.

Meanwhile, decisions about whether to demolish houses or other buildings seemed to follow no consistent military logic.

The book provides eyewitness accounts of three instances in which civilians were shot and killed more or less deliberately, including an elderly man who ventured near an Israeli-occupied house at night, carrying a flashlight.

No warning shots were fired in that episode, and no one shouted at the man to turn back. Instead, he was simply shot dead.

“Eventually, it turned out to be a mistake,” said one of the soldiers.

Asked to sum up his main reaction to the three-week operation, another soldier waxed philosophical.

“How people are able to watch others die or suffer,” he said. “How terribly easily you can grow indifferent to this. It’s like you can turn yourself off. The guy’s dead, let’s move on.”

Another Club Gitmo guest kills himself June 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
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78244074WM004_Supreme_Court
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Glenn Greenwald
www.salon.com, Tuesday June 2, 2009 17:03 EDT

(updated below – Update II)

Some of the most cartoonish pseudo-tough-guy, play-acting-warrior-low-lifes of the Right — Rush Limbaugh, The Weekly Standard, National Review‘s Andy McCarthy — have long referred to Guantanamo as “Club Gitmo.”  Many leading national Republican politicians have (as usual) followed suit.  Recently, some key Democrats have begun actively impeding plans to close it.

Today, Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih — a 31-year old Yemeni who has been in a Gitmo cage since February, 2002 (more than seven years) without charges — became the latest Club Gitmo guest to successfully kill himself:

U.S. military officials say a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay has died of an “apparent suicide.”

The Joint Task Force that runs the U.S. prison in Cuba says guards found 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Monday night.

At the moment, the U.S. military is calling it an “apparent suicide” pending an autopsy.   Though Salih is either the 4th or 5th Gitmo prisoner to kill himself, numerous others have continuously tried, including this year, using every means from hunger strikes to hanging.  In 2006, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris infamously claimed that detainee suicides were “an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”  Although the Obama DOD earlier this year self-servingly announced that Guantanamo is in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions, there is ample evidence that suggests otherwise.

Putting people in cages for life with no charges — thousands of miles from their homes — is inherently torturous.  While Salih acknowledged fighting for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, there is no evidence that he ever engaged in or planned to engage in terrorist acts or acts of violence of any kind against the U.S.  Apparently, though, he’s one of the Worst of the Worst we keep hearing about — Too Dangerous To Release even if we can’t charge him with any crime.

Along those lines, Sen. Russ Feingold will hold a hearing a week from today, at 10:00 a.m., on Obama’s proposal for indefinite “preventive detention,” entitled “The Legal, Moral, and National Security Consequences of ‘Prolonged Detention'” (Feingold’s letter excoriating Obama’s proposal is here).  Other Democrats, such as Rep. Jerry Nadler, have already announced they will oppose Obama’s detention policy.  Closing Guantanamo obviously does nothing to solve these problems if the same system of indefinite detention without charges is simply transported to a new location.  As today’s NYT article put it:  “detainees lawyers, including those representing other Yemeni detainees, have been saying that many prisoners are desperate and that many are suicidal because they see no end to their detention.”  It’s the system of indefinite detention with no trials, not the locale of the cage, that is so oppressive and destructive.

 

UPDATE:  Back in January, several human rights groups — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First and the ACLU — sent a letter to Obama  (.pdf) requesting that they be allowed access to Guantanamo in order “to independently review and report on the conditions of confinement there and make concrete recommendations for change.”  They were never given that access.  Instead, the Pentagon simply conducted its own 3o-day review and announced that everything was fine at Guantanamo.

Today, the ACLU called for a full investigation into the “apparent suicide” of Salih and the conditions of confinement there.  The ACLU’s Ben Wizner said:

Tragic deaths like this one have become all too common in a system that locks up detainees indefinitely without charge or trial. . . .

There is no room for a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial under our Constitution. Detainees against whom there is legitimate evidence should be tried in our federal courts — not in the reconstituted military commissions now being proposed.  Those against whom there is no legitimate evidence must not be given a de-facto life sentence by being locked up forever.

I continue to be amazed by the people who spent the last eight years vehemently protesting this system of indefinite, charge-less detention yet are now supporters of it all because the location will change (maybe) and it will be conducted under a different President.

 

UPDATE II:  A 30-year retired police officer from Texas and periodic commenter here, Diana Powe, wrote in comments:

As someone who has literally had to fight to arrest people who only faced the prospect of a potentially limited confinement after a conviction at trial, the fact that some Americans believe that it’s somehow defensible to dismiss someone facing the rest of their life in a cage committing suicide makes me despair for our country.

Also in comments, Affirming Flame notes that the Penatgon’s status report on Salih  reported:  “When the detainee gets released, he hopes to go back to Yemen and get married. Once married, the detainee intends to go to school and become a history or geography teacher.”  Affirming Flame adds:

This an intensely human tragedy that this man gave up on his dreams and his life. Obviously I can’t know what was going through his head during his final moments, but I do not think it is wildly speculative to imagine that he had given up any hope of ever being sent home and so found the only “release” available to him.

It’s very difficult to know why someone commits suicide, if that’s what happened here.  And since he had no trial, one can’t know what Salih did or didn’t do.  But what is not hard to see is that it is simply wrong to imprison people for life with no charges.  That should not be something that we even have to debate.