Tags: benjamin dangl, celac, daniel ortega, Evo Morales, foreign policy, Hugo Chavez, Latin America, monroe doctrine, oas, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism
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Rain clouds ringed the lush hillsides and poor neighborhoods cradling Caracas, Venezuela as dozens of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state trickled out of the airport and into motorcades and hotel rooms. They were gathering for the foundational summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a new regional bloc aimed at self-determination outside the scope of Washington’s power.
Notably absent were the presidents of the US and Canada – they were not invited to participate. “It’s the death sentence for the Monroe Doctrine,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said of the creation of the CELAC, referring to a US policy developed in 1823 that has served as a pretext for Washington’s interventions in the region. Indeed, the CELAC has been put forth by many participating presidents as an organization to replace the US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), empower Latin American and Caribbean unity, and create a more equal and just society on the region’s own terms.
The CELAC meeting comes a time when Washington’s presence in the region is waning. Following the nightmarish decades of the Cold War, in which Washington propped up dictators and waged wars on Latin American nations, a new era has opened up; in the past decade a wave of leftist presidents have taken office on socialist and anti-imperialist platforms.
The creation of the CELAC reflected this new reality, and is one of various recent developments aimed at unifying Latin America and the Caribbean as a progressive alternative to US domination. Other such regional blocs include the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) which has successfully resolved diplomatic crises without pressure from Washington, the Bank of the South, which is aimed at providing alternatives to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and the Bolivarian Alliance of Latin America (ALBA), which was created as an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a deal which would have expanded the North American Free Trade Agreement throughout Latin America, but failed due to regional opposition.
The global economic crisis was on many of the leaders’ minds during the CELAC conference. “It seems it’s a terminal, structural crisis of capitalism,” Bolivian President Evo Morales said in a speech at the gathering. “I feel we’re meeting at a good moment to debate … the great unity of the countries of America, without the United States.”
The 33 nations comprising the CELAC make up some 600 million people, and together are the number one food exporter on the planet. The combined GDP of the bloc is around $6 trillion, and in a time of global economic woes, the region now has its lowest poverty rate in 20 years; the growth rate in 2010 was over 6% – more than twice that of the US. These numbers reflect the success of the region’s social programs and anti-poverty initiatives.
In an interview with Telesur, Evo Morales said the space opened by the CELAC provides a great opportunity to expand the commerce of Latin America and the Caribbean in a way that does not depend on the precarious markets of the US and Europe. In this respect he saw a central goal of the CELAC being to “implement politics of solidarity, with complementary instead of competitive commerce to resolve social problems…”
While the US is the leading trading partner for most Latin American and Caribbean countries, China is making enormous inroads as well, becoming the main trade ally of the economic powerhouses of Brazil and Chile. This shift was underlined by the fact that Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a letter of congratulations to the leaders forming the CELAC. The letter, which Chávez read out loud to the summit participants, congratulated the heads of state on creating the CELAC, and promised that Hu would work toward expanding relations with the region’s new organization.
The US, for its part, did not send a word of congratulations. Indeed, Washington’s official take on the CELAC meeting downplayed the new group’s significance and reinforced US commitment to the OAS. Commenting on the CELAC, US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said, “There [are] many sub-regional organizations in the hemisphere, some of which we belong to. Others, such as this, we don’t. We continue, obviously, to work through the OAS as the preeminent multilateral organization speaking for the hemisphere.”
Many heads of state actually saw the CELAC meeting as the beginning of the end for the OAS in the region. This position, held most passionately by leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, was best articulated by Venezuelan President, and host of the CELAC meeting, Hugo Chávez. “As the years pass, CELAC will leave behind the old OAS,” Chávez said at the summit. “OAS is far from the spirit of our peoples and integration in Latin America. CELAC is born with a new spirit; it is a platform for people’s economic, political and social development, which is very different from OAS.” He later told reporters, “There have been many coup d’états with total support from the OAS, and it won’t be this way with the CELAC.”
However, the presidents involved in the CELAC vary widely in political ideology and foreign policy, and there were differing opinions in regards to relations with the OAS. Some saw the CELAC as something that could work alongside the OAS. As Mexican chancellor Patricia Espinosa said, the OAS and the CELAC are “complementary forces of cooperation and dialogue.”
A test of the CELAC will be how it overcomes such differences and makes concrete steps toward developing regional integration, combating poverty, upholding human rights, protecting the environment and building peace, among other goals. The final agreements of the two day meeting touched upon expanding south to south business and trade deals, combating climate change and building better social programs across the region to impact marginalized communities. In addition, the CELAC participants backed the legalization of coca leaves (widely used as a medicine and for cultural purposes in the Andes), condemned the criminalization of immigrants and migrants, and criticized the US for its embargo against Cuba.
Various presidents at the CELAC spoke of how to approach these dominant issues. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said the CELAC should “monitor and rate” the US anti-drug efforts. As long as the US continues its consumption of drugs, Ortega said, “All the money, regardless of by how much it’s multiplied, and all the blood, no matter how much is spilled” won’t end the drug trade.
Yet there are plenty of contradictions within the CELAC organization itself. The group is for democracy but includes the participation of Porfirio Lobo from Honduras, the president who replaced Manuel Zelaya in unfair elections following a 2009 military coup. The CELAC is for environmental protection, yet its largest participant, Brazil, is promoting an ecologically disastrous agricultural model of soy plantations, GMO crops and poisonous pesticides that are ruining the countryside and displacing small farmers. The group is for fairer trade networks and peace, yet various participating nations have already signed devastating trade deals with the US, and corrupt politicians at high levels of government across the region are deeply tied to the violence and profits of the transnational drug trade.
These are some of the serious challenges posed to Latin American and Caribbean unity and progress, but they do not cancel out the new bloc’s historical and political significance. The creation of the CELAC will likely prove to be a significant step toward the deepening of a struggle for independence and unity in the region, a struggle initiated nearly 200 years ago and largely led by Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar, whose legacy was regularly invoked at the CELAC conference.
In 1829, a year before his death, Bolívar famously said, “The United States appears destined by Providence to plague America with miseries in the name of Freedom.” Yet with the foundation of the CELAC under the clouds of Caracas, the march toward self-determination is still on.
Benjamin Dangl attended the CELAC conference.
Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America and is the author of the new book, Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). For more information, visit DancingwithDynamite.com. Email Bendangl(at)gmail(dot)com
Bolivian Minister Resigns as Protests Spread Over Crackdown September 26, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, First Nations, Latin America.
Tags: amazon indians, amazonia, ayamara, Bolivia, bolivia protests, bolivia violence, bolviia police, cecilia chacon, Evo Morales, human rights, indigenous rights, quechua, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: this appears to be a classic example of a popular leftist government in power being seduced into undertaking “economic development” projects regardless of destructive social and environmental consequences. Taking state power puts a “leftist’ government into the conundrum of having to produce economic “results” within the only structure that exists, that is, capitalist economic relationships. You can call yourself “socialist” (as do Bolivia’s Morales, Venezuela’s Chavez and Ecuador’s Correa), but socialism and capitalism are polar opposites, they cannot co-exist in a single economy. What you end up with are minor reforms but no real inroads against the neo-liberal and extractionist economic policies against which the current governments’ campaigned while in opposition.
Published on Monday, September 26, 2011 by Agence France Presse
LA PAZ — Protests over a planned highway through a Bolivian rainforest preserve spread Monday as the defense minister resigned in repudiation of a police crackdown on a protest march against the project.
A native Bolivian from the Isiboro Secure indigenous territory and national park, known by its Spanish acronym TIPNIS, clashes with police as he and dozens of others break away from police custody to block the airport runway as they were being forced to board a plane and return towards their homeland in Rurrenbaque September 26, 2011. (REUTERS/David Mercado)
Angry residents erected barricades and set them on fire on the runways of an airport in the northeastern Amazon region to free about 300 marchers who had been detained by police on Sunday and were to be flown home.
“Residents blocked the airport and prevented the detainees from being transferred,” the mayor of Rurrenabaque, Yerko Nunez, told the privately owned Panamerican radio, adding the police fled.
Riot police on Sunday fired tear gas to disperse a long march on La Paz by Indians from the Amazon to voice their opposition to government plans for a highway through the rainforest preserve.
Police rounded up hundreds of marchers and forced them onto buses in an operation that left several people injured.
An AFP journalist saw several activists with superficial face wounds taken away by dozens of police officers, who were loading the marchers into buses.
The police action came under fire from UN officials and human rights group, and on Monday Bolivian Defense Minister Cecilia Chacon announced she was resigning in protest.
“I do not agree with the intervention in the march and I cannot justify the measure when other alternatives existed,” she said in a letter to leftist President Evo Morales.
She warned the right would take advantage of the police action to sow discontent against Morales’ government.
Indigenous activists from Bolivia’s Amazon basin region left the northern city of Trinidad in mid-August in a bid to march on the capital La Paz to protest the highway plan.
The road would run through a nature preserve that is the ancestral homeland of 50,000 natives from three different Amazonian groups, who have lived largely in isolation for centuries.
After more than a month of hiking from the Amazon rainforest, the protesters arrived just outside Yucumo on Saturday after breaking through a police barricade by forcing the country’s foreign minister to march with them.
Morales, attempting to defuse tensions, said Sunday a referendum would be held to determine whether the road project should go ahead.
It was not immediately clear how soon the vote would be held.
Morales, the country’s first elected indigenous president, favors the road project, arguing it is needed for development.
But Amazon natives fear landless Andean Quechua and Aymara people — Bolivia’s main indigenous groups — will flood into the area and colonize the region.
“The most important thing for us is that they stop the violence as soon as possible,” said the UN envoy in Bolivia, Yoriko Yasukawa, reminding authorities it was their responsibility to “protect the people.”
Veteran human rights activist Maria Carvajal told AFP that police had surged into the demonstrators’ camp with “extreme violence,” adding: “I could not believe what was happening.”
In Santa Cruz, a group of 16 Amazon Indians began a hunger strike Monday in the city’s cathedral to protest the “outrage carried out by the government, using the police to repress a peaceful march,” protester Emigio Polche told the PAT television station.
Aymara and Quechua Indians joined in another hunger strike in Cochabamba at the San Francisco church, a spokesman for the group, Reynaldo Flores, told Bolivision television.
“We are ashamed at what is happening in our country,” Flores said.
Bolivia is South America’s only mostly indigenous nation.
Climate Discord: From Hopenhagen to Nopenhagen December 24, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Environment, Uncategorized.
Tags: amy goodman, climate, climate change, climate justice, climate summit, copenhagen, copenhagen accord, erich pica, Evo Morales, friends of the earth., global emissions, global warming, green economies, james hansen, roger hollander
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by Amy Goodman
Barack Obama said, minutes before racing out of the U.N. climate summit, “We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today.” These were among his remarks made to his own small White House press corps, excluding the 3,500 credentialed journalists covering the talks. It was late on Dec. 18, the last day of the summit, and reports were that the negotiations had failed. Copenhagen, which had been co-branded for the talks on billboards with Coke and Siemens as “Hopenhagen,” was looking more like “Nopenhagen.”
As I entered the Bella Center, the summit venue, that morning, I saw several dozen people sitting on the cold stone plaza outside the police line. Throughout the summit, people had filled this area, hoping to pick up credentials. Thousands from nongovernmental organizations and the press waited hours in the cold, only to be denied. On the final days of the summit, the area was cold and empty.
Most groups had been stripped of their credentials so the summit could meet the security and space needs for traveling heads of state, the U.N. claimed. These people sitting in the cold were engaged in a somber protest: They were shaving their heads. One woman told me, “I am shaving my head to show how really deeply touched I feel about what is happening in there. … There are 6 billion people out there, and inside they don’t seem to be talking about them.” She held a white sign, with just a pair of quotation marks, but no words. “What does the sign say?” I asked her. She had tears in her eyes, “It says nothing because I don’t know what to say anymore.”
Obama reportedly heard Friday of a meeting taking place between the heads of state of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and burst into the room, leading the group to consensus on “The Copenhagen Accord.” One hundred ninety-three countries were represented at the summit, most of them by their head of state. Obama and his small group defied U.N. procedure, resulting in the nonbinding, take-it-or-leave-it document.
The accord at least acknowledges that countries “agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science … so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.” For some, after eight years with President George W. Bush, just having a U.S. president who accepts science as a basis for policy might be considered a huge victory. The accord pledges “a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020” for developing countries. This is less than many say is needed to solve the problem of adapting to climate change and building green economies in developing countries, and is only a nonbinding goal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to specify the U.S. share, only saying if countries didn’t come to an agreement it would not be on the table anymore.
Respected climate scientist James Hansen told me, “The wealthy countries are trying to basically buy off these countries that will, in effect, disappear,” adding, “based on our contribution to the carbon in the atmosphere, [the U.S. share] would be 27 percent, $27 billion per year.”
I asked Bolivian President Evo Morales for his solution. He recommends “all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2008 the 15 countries with the highest military budgets spent close to $1.2 trillion on armed forces.
Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of the major NGOs stripped of credentials, criticized the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, writing: “The United States slammed through a flimsy agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors. The so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord’ is full of empty pledges.” But he also applauded “concerned citizens who marched, held vigils and sent messages to their leaders, [who] helped to create unstoppable momentum in the global movement for climate justice.”
Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks. But Pica has it right. The Copenhagen climate summit failed to reach a fair, ambitious and binding agreement, but it inspired a new generation of activists to join what has emerged as a mature, sophisticated global movement for climate justice.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
© 2009 Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.
The Pot Calls the Kettle Black December 12, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Hillary Clinton, Bolivia, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
Tags: ahmadinejad, Bolivia, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, dulles, ethnocentrism, Evo Morales, foreign policy, hilary clinton, honduras coup, Iran, kissinger, monroe doctrine, nuclear power, pepe lobo, roger hollander, secretary of state, U.S. imperialism
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Hillary Clinton with Pepe Lobo, the newly “elected” president of Honduras, who has recently come to power in an election rejected and considered illegitimate and fraudulent by virtually every government around the world that is not a virtual puppet of the US. This photo by itself is capable of generating resentment towards the United States throughout the entire Latin American world, not to mention the vast Latino population in the States.
Roger Hollander, December 12, 2009
It is no big news to note that Americans tend to be ethnocentric. The United States is the benevolent sun around which the rest of the world revolves. Many Americans criticize their government — this was especially true during the Bush era — but few are either willing or able to step outside the apparent inborn prejudice and jingoism to look at the US as others do around the world. Internal critics of any particular US government castigate the incumbent regime for making “mistakes,” for being in error. Few are willing to admit that their government is criminal, a danger to world peace and security.
Living outside the United States helps one to see things in perspective. Today I read an article that appeared in the Associated Press in Spanish that I could not find on Google in English (too harsh criticism of the US for American readers?). It reported that Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, had rejected threats made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Bolivia’s relationship with Iran. I suppose a typical American might respond to this by thinking: Iran bad, Iran president anti-Semetic, Iran nuclear threat, Hillary right to come down on Bolivia.
Morales’ response was to the effect that what right does the pot have to call the kettle black. He noted that the US itself exports terrorism abroad, that it sends troops to invade countries half-way around the world, that it has military bases all over the world. He could have mentioned that the US has a long history of allying itself with tyrants and dictators (currently the newly elected pseudo-president of Honduras, the product of a military coup), and he could have mentioned that as a nuclear threat, no one can begin to match the United States with a nuclear arsenal that could blow the globe to pieces a thousand times. Rather, Morales noted that Bolivia was interested in dialogue and relationship with all nations of the world.
With the super-hawk Hillary Clinton at the point, the Obama administration has its ambassador to the world that could fit into the most right-wing Republican administration. Her name will go down in history alongside of the likes of John Foster Dulles (who advocated the nuclear bombing of Vietnam), Henry Kissinger (responsible for the criminal bombing of Cambodia), Nixon’s Al Haig, George Schultz, Colin Powell (who lied to the world for Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq), and the Bush marionette, Condoleezza Rice.
Clinton’s and therefore Obama’s agressive (to the point of threats) policy toward Latin America, toward the progressive and popular governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador (not to mention Cuba), are in the tradition of the Monroe Doctrine and cold war geopolitics. More “plus ca change …” we can believe in.
I would add that I do not particularly enjoy seen Morales and Venezuela’s Chávez siding up with the likes of Iran’s notorious dictatorial and anti-Semitic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; but that is what nations do, they engage in diplomatic and trade agreements with other nations. Imagine how it appears to non-Americans to see Clinton and Obama appearing alonside Iraq’s illegitimate President Talabani, Afghanistan’s Karzai, Israel’s ultra-right Netanyahu, and now the puppet of the Honduran military, Pepe Lobo.
Peru Indians Hail ‘Historic’ Day June 19, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Environment, First Nations, Latin America, Peru.
Tags: alan garcia, amazon environment, amazon rainforest, bolivia govenment, Evo Morales, Free Trade, fta, indigenous massacre, indigenous rights, peru amazon, peru congress, peru environment, peru government, peru indigenous, peru massacre, peru protest, peruvian amazon, roger hollander
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Indigenous groups in Peru have called off protests after two land laws which led to deadly fighting were revoked.
Hailing victory, Amazonian Indian groups said it was an “historic day”.
At least 34 people died during weeks of strikes against the legislation, which allowed foreign companies to exploit resources in the Amazon forest.
The violence provoked tension with Peru’s neighbour, Bolivia, where Preisdent Evo Morales backed the Peruvian Indians’ tribal rights.
“This is a historic day for indigenous people because it shows that our demands and our battles were just,” said Daysi Zapata, vice president of the Amazon Indian confederation that led the protests.
She urged fellow activists to end their action by lifting blockades of jungle rivers and roads set up since April across six provinces in the Peruvian Amazon.
The controversial laws, passed to implement a free trade agreement with the US, were revoked by Peru’s Congress by a margin of 82-12 after a five-hour debate.
The worst of the clashes occurred on 5 June when police tried to clear roadblocks set up by the groups at Bagua, 1,000km (600 miles) north of Lima.
At least 30 civilians died, according to Indian groups, as well as 23 police.
Peru’s Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the reversal of policy would not put at risk Peru’s free trade agreement with the US, but he has said he will step down once the dispute is settled.
The dispute led to a diplomatic row between Peru and Latin American neighbours Venezuela and Bolivia.
Peru recalled its ambassador to Bolivia for consultation on Tuesday after Bolivian President Evo Morales described the deaths of the indigenous protesters as a genocide caused by free trade.
Peru’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonia Garcia Belaunde called Mr Morales an “enemy of Peru”.
BBC © MMIX
USAID’s Silent Invasion in Bolivia May 19, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: Bolivia, bolivia decentralization, bolivia elections, bolivia government, bolivia indigenous, bolivia opposition, Bolivia Separatism, bolviia politics, eva golinger, Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism, USAID, usaid bolivia, usaid venezuela, Venezuela, venezuela coup
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|© 2009 Upside Down World Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.|
Bolivia: Unraveling the Conspiracy April 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: alvaro garcia linera, bolivia conspiracy, bolivia goviernment, Bolivia Massacre, bolivia mercenaries, bolivia opposition, bolivia political violence, bolivia politics, Bolivia Separatism, eduardo rozsa flores, Evo Morales, franz chavez, julio terrazas, morales assassination, roger hollander, ruben costas, santa cruz bolivia, santa cruz province
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|Written by Franz Chávez|
|Sunday, 26 April 2009|
|(IPS) – The dismantling of a commando made up mainly of men described by the Bolivian government as foreign mercenaries could lead authorities to the people who organised around a dozen different attacks carried out since 2006 in the city of Santa Cruz.
Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera said the attacks were aimed at destabilising the lefting government of Evo Morales and were to culminate in the assassination of the president.
He said business leaders and landowners in the eastern province of Santa Cruz were financing the clandestine operations by the five alleged terrorists, three of whom were shot and killed by the police.
The vice president said some of the businessmen and landowners backed such action of their own accord, and that others did so under pressure.
But the leader of the opposition-controlled Senate, Santa Cruz businessman Oscar Ortiz, questioned the official report that the men were killed in a shootout, and said he suspected they were simply murdered by the police.
According to witnesses, however, police had attempted to arrest the men in downtown Santa Cruz, and they fled to a hotel, where a half-hour shootout came to an end when the alleged plotters reportedly detonated a grenade inside their hotel room.
Santa Cruz governor Rubén Costas, Morales’ most prominent political opponent and one of four governors who have sought autonomy for their provinces, initially suggested that the supposed assassination plot was staged, but is now demanding an impartial investigation.
For its part, the rightwing Santa Cruz Civic Committee, led by local business leaders and landowners, is demanding to see the evidence and photos of the commando that the government says it has.
The Apr. 16 police operation, in which two men were arrested and three killed, took place in an upscale hotel in the capital of the department of Santa Cruz, a city of 1.5 million located 900 km east of La Paz.
No police or judicial investigation has so far clarified the months-long escalation of bomb attacks and fires that targeted the homes of cabinet ministers, government officials and opposition leaders in Santa Cruz, the stronghold of the business and landowners associations and other conservative sectors opposed to Morales since he took office in January 2006.
However, the Apr. 15 attack on the Santa Cruz home of Roman Catholic Cardinal Julio Terrazas, which was carried out with military-style plastic explosives, caused a public outcry, and the police set out to track down the culprits.
Terrazas was out of town at the time of the attack, for which no one claimed responsibility.
The gun battle in the Las Américas hotel in Santa Cruz occurred the night after the bombing attack on the cardinal’s home. The police reported that members of an elite anti-terrorist unit had been involved in a gunfight with a far-right group of mercenaries, and that three men were killed: Romanian-Hungarian Magyarosi Arpak, Irishman Michael Dwyer and Bolivian Eduardo Rózsa Flores, who also apparently holds Hungarian and Croatian passports.
Two others were arrested: Bolivian-Croatian Ramiro Francisco Tadic and Romanian-Hungarian Elod Toaso.
The police also reported that they found a cache of sniper’s rifles, high-calibre firearms, munitions, and plastic explosives similar to those used in the attack on Terrazas’ home, as well as the lid of a container that might have been used to hold the explosives in the bombing attempt the night before.
The arsenal was found in a marketplace warehouse belonging to the Cooperativa de Teléfonos de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a telephone company owned by wealthy local business leaders who are active in the opposition to the Morales administration.
In September 2008, one of the three men who were killed, Eduardo Rózsa Flores, a Bolivian journalist from Santa Cruz who fought in the Balkans war, had taped an interview with a Hungarian TV personality “in case anything happens to me.”
In the interview, which was broadcast by the Hungarian MTV station after the news of his death came out, Rózsa Flores said he had been invited by the opposition in Bolivia to set up an armed defence force to protect the autonomy of the province of Santa Cruz. He also said that “We are ready, within a few months in case co-existence doesn’t work under autonomy, to proclaim independence and create a new country.”
While the hidden arms cache in a building owned by rightwing opposition businessmen was reported in Santa Cruz, Vice President García Linera warned in statements from La Paz of the presence of mercenaries, and Morales said from Venezuela – where he was taking part in a meeting of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) bloc, held ahead of the fifth Summit of the Americas hosted by Trinidad and Tobago – that the group was plotting to assassinate him.
Rózsa Flores, the son of a Communist militant who settled in Santa Cruz, was commander of an international brigade in the Balkans conflict made up of 380 mercenaries from 20 different countries, who were fighting for Croatian independence.
Political violence and terrorist attacks are nothing new since Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was sworn in. Radical rightwing opposition groups stormed central government buildings in Santa Cruz last September, while anti-government protesters caused a natural gas pipeline explosion in the southern province of Tarija.
And on Sept. 11, 2008, a group of indigenous supporters of Morales were violently blocked by provincial authorities from entering the town of El Porvenir in the northern Amazon jungle province of Pando.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and a United Nations commission condemned the massacre of 13 indigenous peasants, which led to the arrest of conservative Pando governor Leopoldo Fernández, who is in prison in La Paz awaiting trial.
The survivors described the incident as an “ambush” by the opposition, and video footage showed people desperately swimming across a river to escape, under gunfire.
The incident was the bloodiest in over a week of often violent protests by the rightwing opposition in Bolivia’s relatively wealthy eastern provinces, which have been fighting for autonomy.
Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, is basically divided between the western highlands, home to the impoverished indigenous majority, and the much better off eastern provinces, which account for most of the country’s natural gas production, industry and GDP. The population of eastern Bolivia tends to be lighter-skinned, of more mixed-race (Spanish and indigenous) descent.
Barack Obama’s South of the Border Adventure April 25, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Latin America.
Tags: Afghanistan, bailout, Barack Obama, bay of pigs, Bolivia, bolivia politics, bush policies, cuban blockade, daniel ortega, eduardo galeano, Evo Morales, foreign policy, healthcare reform, howard zinn, Hugo Chavez, irqa, Latin America, open veins of latin america, Pentagon, summit of the americas, Venezuela, Wall Street, war profiteers
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By Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 22, 2009
It’s amazing what you can learn about a Gringo when you put him together with a bunch of Latinos.
Barack Obama, as the adored new president of the giant republic to the North, likely arrived at last weeks Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago expecting to strut his stuff.
The President would have been briefed on the question of the Cuban Blockade; the latest shenanigans of his putative hemispheric nemesis, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez; free trade issues, and the like. But it is not likely that any of his advisors would have thought to advise him about the romantic and spontaneous nature of the Latino soul.
You have to have lived amongst Latin Americans (as I have for the past fifteen years) to understand how natural it was for Chávez to greet Obama with open arms (“Chávez Hates America” Republicans and the lapdog North American mainstream media equate disagreement with a government’s policy with dislike of its people; Latin Americans are generally astute enough to be aware there is a difference). But what was really not only a stroke of genius but also totally in character was Chávez’s presenting Obama with a signed copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic masterpiece on U.S/Latin American relations, “The Open Veins of Latin America.”
And how did Obama react? According to his spokesperson, the president would probably not read the book because it was in Spanish. Talk about a dud of a response. And can you imagine Obama presenting Chávez with the North American counterpart to Galeano’s work, I’m referring to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States?” I apologize if I’m wrong, but I would bet that President Obama is not even aware of the Zinn’s best seller alternative version of U.S. history, much less read it. On the other hand, it would be hard to convince me that there is a president of a Latin American republic that is not familiar with Galeano.
Next up steps Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega whose speech includes a criticism of US imperialism throughout the 20th century. In it he mentions the failed U.S. sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. Obama’s response? “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.” Ha, ha. Very funny but quite beside the point.
But if there was ever a contrast between Latin American and North American leadership, it is exemplified in the person of Bolivia’s young, charismatic and dynamic President Evo Morales (But Obama is also young, charismatic and dynamic, you say? True, but wait and see). Morales, the first native president of a nation that is 60% Indigenous, would have arrived at the Summit a bit under the weather, having just come off a five day hunger strike, which he conducted on a mattress on the floor of the Presidential Palace. Morales is a former coca farmer and labor leader, who in the tradition of Gandhi and California’s great farm worker leader, Cesar Chavez, is a strong believer in the efficacy of the hunger strike as a political strategy. His longest previous hunger strike lasted 18 days (can you picture Bill Clinton going more than 48 hours without a Big Mac?). The current fast was to protest tactics used by obstructionist Congressman that were preventing a vote on a measure that would increase Indigenous representation in Congress, and enable elections to go ahead in December in which Morales would be eligible to run for re-election (and where because of his immense popularity he is virtually a shoo-in).
Many if not most North Americans can understand direct action or civil disobedience on the part of a Martin Luther King, but from the President of the United States? How undignified. And to what end? Well, here’s what Morales achieved: the obstructionists backed down, and the Congress approved the election law. Why would they have done that? Because Morales enjoys enormous popularity among the Bolivian electorate. He went over the heads of the right wing congressmen and appealed directly to his people, and his adversaries saw that they had no choice but to back down. Now can you imagine Barack Obama taking advantage of his enormous popularity to engage in such a heart-felt demonstration of his convictions in order to stand up say to the private health insurance industry and its bought-lock-stock-and-barrel representatives in Congress in order to achieve a single-payer universal healthcare plan (which he once supported but now is “off the table”)? Can you imagine him conducting a sit-in in the Oval Office in order to face down the Pentagon and the merchants of death military contractors in order to rally the kind of popular pressure that would force approval for a substantial reduction in the gargantuan defense budget? (Try channeling your inner John Lennon, and Imagine!)
So what was the interaction between Morales and Obama at the Summit? First you must realize that for the past year or so, Morales has been the target of right wing terrorists, who have attempted to destabilize his government by brutally attacking his supporters and who have recently failed in an attempt on his life. So Morales approached President Obama directly at the Summit – man-to-man, no bureaucratic intermediaries, no diplomatic niceties – and (according to Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, who attended the session) presented him with specific information about U.S. mercenaries who he said were operating in his country. The President again came up with a non-response response that was as rote and as lame as his others. He stated that his administration ‘does not promote the overthrow of any democratically elected head of state nor support assassination of leaders of any country’ (which, if true, would be quite a radical departure from past U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America!). Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, confirmed the account. End of discussion.
So what is my point? What I am trying to show is that there is a refreshing authenticity about some Latin American heads of state, who can be candid and direct on a person to person basis in a way that we seldom if ever see in North America. U.S. presidents go in for photo-ops and prepared statements that more often than not occult hidden agendas.
The tragic irony here is that Obama’s speedy and dramatic rise to the presidency was largely due to his ability to convince the American people of his own authenticity. He convinced us that we could believe in him. It is said that a person who can dissemble while at the same time projecting unimpeachable sincerity has the recipe for wielding immense power. And Barack has shown himself to be a first class dissembler. He convinced the American people that his administration would be a “genuine change” from that of previous administrations while in a few short weeks in office he has forged ahead both with President Bush’s major domestic and foreign policies (continued giveaways to Wall Street and the corrupt banking and finance industries on the home front; military escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a disingenuous promise to leave Iraq which he knows the generals will not stand for, and blind uncritical support for Israeli militarism and apartheid in the area of foreign policy).
Barack Obama did not get to where he is today by taking principled stands on issues. He cut his teeth in the corruption riddled cradle of Chicago ward politics, where winning and holding power is the only principle that matters. His cynical choice of anti-gay bigot Rick Warren to give the Inauguration prayer and his support of the so-called Jewish Lobby and Israel’s war crimes in Gaza are only two of many examples of his going for the votes and principles be damned.
It is interesting to note that early on in his career Obama evidenced his ability to project an image as an agent of change while at the same time remaining snuggly in bed with the status quo. This is what a colleague said of him when interviewed by the Toronto Star in 1990 in a story about Obama as the Harvard Law Review’s first Black editor:
“He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have,” said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. “His election was significant at the time, but now it’s meaningless because he’s becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).”
But I would add a caveat. Few if any of the Latin American presidents at the Summit, (with the possible exception of Daniel Ortega, when he was the Sandinista guerrilla leader) have sent men and women into battle to kill and be killed. They are not the heads of state of the world’s largest military power and self-appointed imperial policeman. While on the other hand, from the moment that Obama’s hand slipped off the Bible on Inauguration Day, it was awash in blood (he is already responsible, for example, for more civilian deaths in Pakistan that result from U.S. unmanned drone missiles than was President Bush).
We should therefore not expect Barack Obama to be anything more than a slightly kinder, gentler enforcer of United States imperial mandates. That is what he has spent his entire life preparing to do. We need to realize that it is not “change we can believe in” that we should expect from him, but rather “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
Genuine winds of “change you can believe in” are in fact blowing throughout most of Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, but also to a lesser degree in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, El Salvador, Paraguay, Chile and Nicaragua. It is a refreshing breeze, one that North Americans also hunger for but will soon realize that they have been duped once again.