For Grassroots Movement-Building and Sharing of Resources Within the US-Latin America Solidarity Community
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As we watch cities all over the world occupying the streets we can’t do better than to remember and quote Howard Zinn: Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zigzag toward a more decent society. We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
Peter and Gail Mott
¡Presente! Dean Brackley,
SJ. El Salvador
Peter HInde, OCarm., a founder of CRISPAZ who knew Dean Brackley from his days of study at the Chicago Theological Union, followed by his years of ministry in the South Bronx, NY, said of him, “We were thrilled by his quick response to replace a brother Jesuit murdered at the UCA in November 1989. He has been the voice and spirit of Archbishop Oscar Romero…and he insisted that all who came to know the Salvadoran people had their hearts broken and left ruined for life. By that he meant that visitors could no longer accept a consumer life style and be passive before the aggression of an economic, political system destructive of these peoples. His life was given for them.”
Blanco Go Home!
– by Brian Concannon, Jr.
One of Latin America’s most important, and desperate, anti-occupation struggles is being waged in Haiti, against an unlikely opponent: a UN force led by soldiers from progressive Latin American countries sent to Haiti to do the Bush Administration’s dirty work.
The People United: New Priorities Network: An Opportunity for Solidarity
– by Chuck Kaufman
The one-year old New Priorities Network (NPN) held a strategy meeting Oct. 1-2 in Washington, DC, facing a dramatically different political environment than it did at its founding. A year ago the discussion was about ways to get ending the wars and cutting the bloated Pentagon budget onto the public agenda. This year, thanks to the crisis over raising the debt ceiling and constant threats of government shut-down, the cost of the wars and the military budget are very much part of the public agenda.
– by Vicki Ryder
One of the speakers at the opening rally of Occupy 2011 in DC quoted Gandhi’s now-famous observation:
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
The corporate-owned media have moved from ignoring to ridicule, especially since they do not see that we have a cohesive message, as the protesters did in Tahrir Square, for example, with their unified demand that “Mubarak must go!”
Mexico Interview with Charles Bowden
[Ed. note: This piece is excerpted from a video interview of Charles Bowden, author of Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields (2010 by Nation Books) and El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin, edited with Molloy Malloy, (2011 Nation Books) talking with David Zlutnick, a documentary filmmaker, whose latest film is Occupationo Has No Future: Militarism+Resistance in Israel/Palestine.
Honduras: The Illegal-Post-Coup Government Continues – With US Help
– by Jennifer Atlee
On October 5, President Obama received Porfirio Lobo of Honduras at the White House. celebrating advances in human rights, restoration of democracy and reconciliation under Lobo’s leadership and stating that Honduras “gives us great hope.” President Obamas’ glowing depiction of democracy and reconciliation in Honduras stands in shocking contrast with daily reports from Honduras and national and international human rights organizations underscoring grave concerns regarding the direction of U.S. policy.
Rights Action’s Grahame Russell responds to NY Times article (Desperate Guatemalans Embrace An ‘Iron Fist’ by Damien Cave, 9/9/11)
NYT: COBÁN, Guatemala — Now, all across these highlands once ravaged by a 36-year civil war, the region’s bloodiest anti-Communist conflict, Guatemalans are demanding the unthinkable — a strong military back in their communities.
RA: : It was not an “anti-communist” conflict in Guatemala. It was a campaign of State repression and genocide against its own, majority Mayan, mainly unarmed population, to keep in place an unjust economic development model.
Who Will Stop the River of Death into Mexico?
– by John Lindsay-Poland
When you cross on foot over the bridge that joins El Paso, Texas – safest city of its size in the United States – with Ciudad Juárez – murder capital of the world, you need no money, no identification, and your bag is unlikely to be checked. And you’ll see a small sign reminding you that it is illegal to possess guns in Mexico.
Every day, according to a study by Magda Coss, two thousand firearms pass from the United States into Mexico. In Phoenix and Houston, or at most of the 6,600 gun dealers near the Mexican border, if you don’t have a criminal record, it is legal to walk in, buy 10 or 20 AK-47s or AR-15s, or Five-seveN guns designed to penetratearmor and bullet-proof vests, and walk out.
Activists Share Knowledge and Strategies
– by Jamie Way
As a movement, the left tends to be creative, flexible and ambitious. We are masters of camaraderie and welcome anyone who wants to be involved. We are not, however, always as intentional as we should be about sharing our knowledge.
This topic has been the focus of conversation at multiple meetings within the last year. Last November, at the Latin America Solidarity Coalition (LASC) meeting on confronting U.S. militarism, one group suggested that a weakness of the anti-militarism movement was lack of training. They concluded that this should be addressed through an accessible educational program. In April of this year, at the LASC conference in D.C., youth activists met. Through their discussions it became clear that a weakness of the movement was its inability to pass knowledge on to younger activists.
Responding to Chuck Kaufman
– by Malcolm Bell
Since I agree with nearly everything that Chuck Kaufman says in his stimulating essay, “Yes, Virginia, There is Evil in the World” (June 2011 Interconnect), I shall respond by trying to build on it. One point of difference: whereas I think he sees evil as an independent entity or force, I see it as something that people do, that is, as a shorthand term for hurting others unnecessarily. But both versions reach the same conclusion: evil deeds proliferate with the acquiescence of a largely passive public. So I second Chuck’s point that we who care need to be both proactive and reactive, to grow the garden and protect it.
Disaster in haiti
As we go to press all of us are shaken to the core by the agony and suffering we see daily on our screens. It is in good part Western economic and political domination of Haiti that has left the people there completely vulnerable. How can we respond? Jubilee USA urges us to call on the Obama administration to take two specific steps to ensure a quick and just response to the crisis in Haiti: (1)Provide massive assistance for relief and reconstruction in the form of grants, not loans; (2) Cancel the rest of Haiti’s debt. The World Bank announced that it is putting a moratorium on debt service for five years – a positive first step; and the IMF has announced a moratorium on debt service for two years. But it is essential to keep strong pressure on these institutions and our government..
Peter and Gail Mott,
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Special issue on US Militarization of the Continent
In this age of Obama are Latin America relations souring? In this issue we list many current problems and challenges for our movement. The urgent task for us is to persuade our government to change course, to see the democratic spirit that is sweeping Latin America not as a threat but an opportunity for true partnership.
Most alarming reports
- Copenhagen: Many small nations – including our colleagues in the South – were frustrated by our back-room deals and strong-arm tactics at the UN climate conference, threatening developing countries, and not requiring major polluters to make emissions cuts (Will Weissert, Huffington Post, 12/21/09
- Venezuela and Drones: President Hugo Chavez reported (12/20) on TV’s “Alo Presidente,” that unmanned aerial vehicles have illegally entered Venezuela’s airspace in the State of Zulia, bordering Colombia. Chavez gave the order to shoot down any drones (David Cancel, www.Bloomberg.com, 12/20). On 1/8 a US P-3 combat plane from the US base in Curacao violated Venezuelan air space. Two Venezuelan F-16s escorted it away. The Pentagon denied the report. Also, several days earlier, Venezuelan Vice President, Ramon Gonzalez, reported another US military plane from Curacao.
- The Fourth Fleet, reactivated in 2008, is perceived by a majority of nations in Latin America as a direct threat to regional sovereignty. They now have “established a Defense Council to deal with external threats” (Eva Gollinger, Global Research, 12/20).
- Dole Food Co. and Chichita Brands International paid the Colombian army’s paramilitary AUC to provide “protection,” including murder of trade unionists, according to demobilized paramilitary Jose Gregorio Mongones on 12/6/09, in the current civil lawsuit filed by family members of the victims (NACLA, Juan Smith, 12/14/09).
- The US and Colombia in July concluded a secret deal to permit US use of seven military bases in Colombia. Also, in April 2009, the US Air Mobility Command agreed to enlarge the Palanquero base in Colombia to become a “cooperative security location” that can cover half the continent with a C-17 military transport without refueling (Noam Chomsky, Task Force on the Americas Report, Fall 09). Panama has ceded four aero-naval bases to the US, one close to Colombia. (Professor Marco Gandasequi, U Panama in ALAIAMLATINA, 4/11/09
- Militarization of the Mexico-US border is increasing. In the northern border state of Coahuila, incoming mayors recently ratified the continuation of former military officers to head police departments in five municipalities (Center for International Policy, Americas Program, Kent Patterson, 1/6/10).
THE PEOPLES’ RESISTANCE AND THE POWERS’ REPRESSION
US militarization of this continent is increasing. We know it is not simply because of “the drug war’ or “the war on terror.” It appears to be for US corporate/economic control – a preservation of the Monroe Doctrine, labeled as the neoliberal economic system. And at a time when the grassroots in Latin America favor, instead, a shift to increasing self-sufficiency, nationalism, regional organizing, increasing social programs and decreasing privatization.
For two decades we – as a movement – have worked in solidarity with the people of Latin America to RESIST corporate globalization/neoliberalism. And we have marched all over the US to stop REPRESSION. However, both RESISTANCE and REPRESSION persist.
Readers are aware that for several years Latin Americans have been electing presidents who are liberal, progressive, and independent of US domination. All of them have been elected democratically in Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and now Uruguay, running on platforms opposed to corporate globalization/neoliberalism and favoring the peoples’ rights to their own natural resources. For example:
- “Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, President Evo Morales, easily won (63%) his second five-year term, solidifying the revolution he promises for the country’s long-oppressed indigenous majority…” (Christian Science Monitor, 12/20/09)
- “President Rafael Correa, elected in 2006, and re-elected in 2009 under the new constitution, is leading Ecuador through what he calls a new ‘revolution.” (Ronn Pineo, Upside Down World, 12/24/09)
- Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, still being demonized by our State Department and media, has been freely and fairly elected twice, has nationalized the oil industry, and increased health and education for the poor majority.
- Previous issues of INTERCONNECT (see www.interconn.org) have included a continuing series of other forms of resistance to neoliberalism, such as the South American trading bloc ALBA, and UNASUR (Union of South American Republics) for regional cooperation.
- Uruguay. On 11/30/09 José “El Pepe” Mujica, a 74-year-old charismatic former rebel leader, won the run-off election for President. He ran for the ruling Broad Front with the backing of President Tabare Vasquez. He’s popular with the young and the poor and promises to nudge the country leftwards. During Uruguay’s conservative military dictatorship (1873-85) he served 14 years in prison for work with the Tupamaros guerilla movement (Guardian News Service 10.25.09) “His election is being seen as an expression of the desire for leftwing continuity.” (Candace Pieeptte, BBC News, Montevideo, 11/30/09).
The US role in repressing any challenge to corporate globalization by “leftist” governments is well known: ridding Guatemala of President Arbenz in 1954, and Chile of President Allende in 1973, the suspicious death in 1961 of Panama’s President Trujillos and the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, the wars of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, the US invasion of Panama and Grenada, the US role in the military coups in Haiti and suspicious signs of involvement in the Honduras military coup (see INTERCONNECT News Alerts at www.interconn.org).
Honduras Most reports of the military coup in our corporate media have been misleading, although occasionally truth comes through. For example, the New Yorker’s article, “An Old-Fashioned Coup,” by William Finnegan (excerpted here. See the full article in the 11/30/09 issue).
- “There were deaths, disappearances, and mass detentions. Still, the protests went on. (President) Zelaya may have lost the support of the country’s traditional institutions, but he gained a large following among teachers, labor unions, and peasant organizations…His policies were not the issue; democracy was.
- “Signals from Washington were mixed. Congressional conservatives rallied around the coup leaders, who…spent at least six hundred thousand dollars on Washington lobbyists…(Lanny Davis, the former Clinton White House special counsel, and his firm pocketed much of that). By early October, nine Congressional Republicans had visited Honduras…supporting Micheletti’s de facto regime.
- “Zelaya sneaked back into Honduras, concealed in a vehicle…with his wife at the Brazilian Embassy…Thousands flocked (there)…were beaten and dispersed by soldiers and riot police…The US was officially aghast. But the US representative to the OAS called Zelaya’s return ‘irresponsible and foolish.’
- “Four days after the accord was signed, (Assistant Secretary of State) Thomas Shannon jolted Honduras and much of Latin America, by suggesting on ‘CNN en Espanol’ that even if Zelaya were not restored to the Presidency, the US would recognize the results of the November elections…Zelaya pronounced the accord ‘dead.’ It looked as if an old-fashioned coup could still succeed in Latin America after all.”
Paraguay In the fall of 2009, after the military coup in Honduras, there was fear that other leftist presidents might be overthrown. Apparently the former “Bishop of the Poor,” President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, was afraid of such an event. (NY Times 11/5/09). [Ed. note: He replaced many military leaders and – as this newsletter goes to print – we have not been aware of any coup activity since.]
Ecuador The Cuban press (GRAMMA, 1/5/10) states: “President Correa reported today “discovery of a conspiracy aimed at destabilizing the government and preparing the floor for a coup d’etat,” and that “conspirators have been receiving help not just from the US government but from US right-wing organizations.”
Cuba An article published in the New York Times (12/12/09), by Eva Golinger, revealed the detention of a US government contract employee in Havana this past December 5th. The employee, whose name has not yet been disclosed, works for Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), one of the largest US government contractors providing services to the State Department, the Pentagon and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The employee was detained while distributing cellular telephones, computers and other communications equipment to Cuban dissident and counterrevolutionary groups that work to promote US agenda on the Caribbean island.
Last year, the US Congress approved $40 million to “promote transition to democracy” in Cuba. DAI was awarded the main contract, “The Cuba Democracy and Contingency Planning Program”, with oversight by State and USAID (www.chavezcode.com/2009/12/cia-agent-capured-in-cuba-employee-of.html).
WHAT CAN WE DO?
From Global Trade Watch:
“The spectacular 1999 protests of the WTO in Seattle stopped a plan for massive WTO expansion…a decade later the question is whether the Obama administration will lead an effort to modernize the rules of the global economy…153 member countries remain bound to a full complement of neoliberal policies…extreme poverty in poor countries has increased…so has hunger. Corporate interests are putting enormous pressure on Obama to continue the failed model.
“On the other hand: in Congress the Trade Act (HR ) calls for renegotiation of the WTO, NAFTA and CAFTA. “Global justice activists worldwide have turned to permanent campaigning at home to make their governments better represent their interests.”
(Lori Wallach, Director of Global Trade Watch, Public Citizen, excerpted from the Nation, 12/21-28/09).
[Ed. note: “Permanent campaigning” as a strategy for our movement?]
An ongoing education/action campaign, and not just for the crises but the goal might be – over time – to get the public, our representatives and the administration to raise our level of understanding of the people of Latin America. And, why don’t we go for the soft underbelly of neoliberalism – IMF rules of “structural adjustment.”
We believe the majority of Americans – when polled with objectively-worded questions – are opposed to:
Extreme, unfettered capitalism;
Exporting jobs to cheap labor areas;
Really cheap labor itself;
Free trade agreements – especially NAFTA;
Undemocratic aspects of the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization (WTO).
AND A WARNING
Prepare for the FBI
Coming off the great success of the 20th unlicensed Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba, we want to thank all of you for your support…
We want also to notify all of our network that…before my return to the office, the FBI had visited the IFCO/Pastors for Peace office…[Also] that Ignacio Meneses of the US/Cuba Labor Exchange, who travelled to Cuba along with the Venceremos Brigade, recently received a visit by the FBI at his home. Because now two persons who travelled to Cuba in August have received visits from the FBI, we thought it would be appropriate to share the information that we sent out to the Caravanistas on August 18th, 2009, with our whole network.
Save the date: Detroit June 22-26
What: The US Social Forum (USSF)
Where: Cobo Hall and Hart Plaza downtown and the Wayne State University downtown campus.
Objectives: Strategizing for our movements
Networking with folks from all over the US.
Helping the LASC plan Latin America workshops
Contact: Maureen Taylor or William Copeland, 877-515-USSF
Register: See website (http.//www.ussf2010.org/)
How to Help: Call Chuck Kaufman at the Alliance for Global Justice, 202-256-8032, or Alexis Stoumbelis at CISPES, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democracy in Latin America vs US policy
– by Mark Weisbrot[This first appeared in Fohla de São Paulo, 11/28/09]
Over the last decade an epoch-making political change has taken place in the Western Hemisphere: Latin America, a region that was once considered the United States’ “back yard,” is now more independent of Washington than Europe is.
But while Latin America has changed, U.S. foreign policy has not – even now, with the election of President Obama. Hence the region, including Brazil, finds itself increasingly at odds with Washington. The military coup in Honduras is just one recent and glaring example.
U.S. – Canada Delegation Condemns Human Rights Situation in Haiti
[Ed. note: In late December the LASC (Latin America Solidarity Coalition) sent its first delegation to Haiti to clarify the situation there. LASC members issued the following Press Release on 1/4/10. The delegation returned before the earthquake.]
The Latin American Solidarity Coalition from the United States, and the Canada Haiti Action Network wish to express our grave concern about human rights in Haiti.
Our delegation came to investigate human rights violations and, in particular, violations by the United Nations’ MINUSTAH forces. We will send a report of our delegation’s findings to the United Nations, to the United States Congress, to President Barack Obama, to the Canadian government, and to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. We will also circulate our findings to the media.
From the Literature: Bolivia’s Next Steps
by Ben Dangl (excerpted from the Nation, 12/16/09, with permission.)
“During Morales’s first four years in office, various indigenous, farmer and workers movements were pivotal in defeating right-wing destabilization efforts, passing land reform legislation, radicalizing government policy and ushering in a new progressive Constitution. At the same time, defending the MAS against the oligarchy and right wing often took precedence over self-criticism and internal debate; those who seriously questioned the MAS were sometimes labeled allies of the right and sidelined.
Commentary By Malcolm Bell
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, the irresponsible willfulness of a privileged couple named Tom and Daisy Buchanan brings violent death to three other people. Fitzgerald concludes, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” How often has Uncle Sam done the same?
¡PRESENTE! Dennis Brutus
anti-apartheid and human rights activist and poet, who died 12/28/09 at age 85.
- Poet and anti-apartheid campaigner
- In cell next to Nelson Mandela from 1964 to 1965
- Instrumental in achieving the apartheid regime’s expulsion from the 1968 Mexican Olympics and then in 1970 from the Olympic movement.
- Defeated high-profile efforts by the Reagan administration to deport him in the 1980s.
- Helped the Latin Ameirca solidarity movement during 1980’s and 90’s.
- In Venezuela for the eighth meeting of the Network of Intellectuals and Artists in Defence of Humanity and the World Forum for Alternatives, October 18, 2008. His poem delivered at the closing session:
There will come a time
There will come a time we believe
When the shape of the planet
and the divisions of the land
Will be less important;
We will be caught in a glow of friendship
a red star of hope
will illuminate our lives
A star of hope
A star of joy
A star of freedom
RESOURCES: Major Events – Campaigns – Special reports – speakers – Books – Travel [more…]
Movement News in Brief
Haiti: A devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti on 1/12/10 – the first large earthquake in 240 years. On Day 3 Cuba had 30 medical doctors there (plus 400 who already were working there) and had opened a field hospital at the site of the one destroyed in Port au Prince (David Lindorff, 1/5 Common Dreams). On 1/15 Janet Napolitano, Director of Homeland Security, announced Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian refugees.
Venezuela: (a) On 1/9 the Cuban newspaper “GRANMA” reported that the National Institute of Statistics finds poverty down 3/3% this year. Daily lunches are provided to 4 million children. (b) The Counsel General, Jorge Velos, announced the donation of 4,000 energy-efficient light bulbs to the people of Jackson, Mississippi. (c) President Chavez has announced that 225,000 barrels of oil have been sent to devastated Haiti; anad that all the gasoline and diesel fuel that they need will be sent.
El Salvador: After years of struggle, the Oscar Romero University in El Salvador is going through a rebirth. The new government of Mauricio Funes has taken a courageous stand to support a new, independent university administration – one committed to Romero’s vision of the preferential option for the poor (1/23, Peace International, email@example.com).
United States: On 1/25 federal trials begin for four human rights advocates arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience in carrying the 11/19-21 protest against the School of the Americas/ Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation onto the Fort Benning military base in Georgia. Each defendant faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Their demand: A change in U.S.-Latin America foreign policy and the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC).
Mexico: (a) Ciudad Juarez, city of femicides, documented 2700 killings in 2009 and is called the world’s most violent city. (b) The Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras” (CJM) is 20 years old.
Bolivia: The Obama administration cancelled Bolivia’s trade preferences after Bolivia expelled our Drug Enforcement Administration and some USAID staff for “spying and plotting with the oligarchy.” Growth in GDP will be the highest in Latin America.
El Salvador: (a) Recently declassified US intelligence documents, handed over to the Spanish courts, show that the US State Department, the CIA and Spanish intelligence knew in advance of the 1989 assassination of the Jesuit priests (Cuba News GRANMA). (b) CRISPAZ (Christians for Peace in El Salvador) is 25 years old.
Colombia: Congratulations to Peace Brigades International for 15 years of courageous accompaniment.