Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Solidarity News November 30th 2006

This week we have more from our correspondent in Oaxaca, Julie Webb-Pullman,
and further background information on the global economy and Milton Friedman's free market experiment in Chile.

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Mondays 5-6pm Ph 021 548 985 or
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From our correspondent in Oaxaca, Julie Webb-Pullman
Date: 27 November 2006 12:55:42 PM

I am in Oaxaca, trapped in the university, surrounded by narco police and PFP, who have been trucked in by the busload, according to neighbours who have rung the university radio, and even Ulises own radio station has admitted to this. Despite the university being an autonomous institution that the government cannot enter without invitation, everyone expects to be attacked today (it is now nearly 6pm) or tonight. Helicopters circled overhead several hours ago and were greeeted by home-made bazookas - not my idea of peaceful protest.... I have been able to get to this cibercafe behind the barricade escorted by a local but can only stay a minute. There are rumoured to now be between 3 and 13 dead according to a doctor who arrived at the university at 1pm, more than 800 unaccounted for (could be in hiding, disappeared, dead, or still being tortured before being formally arrested), 100 detained according to official sources (which means much more) 30 injured (doesn-t account for injured disappeareds) and the radio is constantly broadcasting messages from families asking for people to contact them. We cannot leave until either the police come in and kill&arrest us, or the federal government does something like get rid of Ruiz and pull the PFP and EFI out (EFI are the narco-police who have been brought in). There are bombs going off right now, so I better go.
Hope to see you again!!

Offensive by the Federal Preventive Police Against the People of Oaxaca

By the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) - The Other Oaxaca

November 25, 2006

A large number of people are reported detained in various parts of the city. Two deaths are the result of the confrontation. (as of 9:33)

The federal police began, around 5pm, to attack the members of the APPO that were peacefully demonstration in the areas around the zocalo. These aggressions caused the conflict that is still continuing between the police and the members of the APPO and its supporters.

The streets of the historic center area battle ground and the federal police began to discharge fire arms against the protesters about an hour ago. The ministerial police of the state of Oaxaca and the federal preventative forces are investigating in order to apprehend in some part of the city, such as in el Llano, Crespo street and the market Central de Abastos as well as in other parts.

Approximately 40 people are reported detained, 20 of them women. There are various injured people, one of whom is gravely hurt.

Up until now we have the information that two compañeros have lost their lives due to the aggressions, although their identities have not been confirmed.
At the moment the offices of exterior relations (immigration) that are located in Pino Suarez and the offices of the police that are located in Juarez Avenue are on fire.

The Federal Preventive Police together with the state police have unleashed an offensive against the social movement of Oaxaca. The confrontations have arrived to the area around ADO (a bus station) and the hospital IMSS which is located in the street Ninos Heroes.

The APPO has information that because of these recent events the Mexican Army is in Maximum Alert.

Santo Domingo, headquarters of the APPO’s planton (camps in the city’s center) has been removed by the federal police after being taken over by them.
Faced with this offensive against the people and in order to avoid more bloodshed the APPO has decided to retreat.

We demand the punishment of Felipe Calderón, Vicente Fox, Ulises Ruiz for this massacre that is being carried out against the people of Oaxaca.
We call to all of the peoples of Mexico and of the World to carry out mobilizations demanding that this aggression ends.

Punish the murders
Freedom to political prisoners
Long live the heroic people of Oaxaca


In the early morning of 13 November the indigenous community of Viejo Velasco Suarez, Chiapas State, was attacked by armed individuals, many of whom were wearing security force clothing. About 40 individuals in civilian clothes and armed with machetes and bats first arrived in Viejo Velasco Suarez from Nueva Palestina that morning. About 200 individuals followed soon after, armed with high caliber firearms usually commissioned by the military. Some reportedly wore military clothes, some wore uniforms of the State Police (Policía Sectorial) and others wore balaclavas.

Two men and a woman died during the attack. According to testimonies, the woman was raped before being killed; she was six months pregnant. According to the testimony of a woman from Viejo Velasco who had been held hostage in the nearby community of Nueva Palestina for two days after the attack, three men – one of them her father – were killed when she and the three were taken to Nuevo Palestina. The community reports four men missing that might include the ones the woman reported as having been killed. However, their bodies have not been found for which they are considered disappeared. 39 people, including 5 children, from Viejo Velasco who only recently had returned to that community are displaced.

On 14 November Diego Arcos Meneses, a resident of a nearby community, was walking near the site of the attack when he was threatened and detained by agents of the Attorney of the Selva Region (Fiscalía Regional, Zona Selva]. Diego Arcos Meneses was reportedly forced to load the body of a dead woman onto the agents’ helicopter before being taken by them to the office of the Prosecutor in Palenque to be questioned as a witness to the attack in Viejo Velasco Suarez.

Diego Arcos Meneses, who does not speak Spanish very well and who cannot read Spanish, gave testimony verbally in Spanish and was not provided with interpretation. He refused to sign the written version of his testimony because he could not confirm its accuracy. As a result, he was reportedly beaten severely and was put into preventive custody. He remains in custody and the Fray Bartolomé Human Rights Center and the Center for Indigenous Rights are taking on his defense.

Reportedly one man from Nuevo Palestina also died in the attack and another who was injured was taken into custody. This man in his declaration to the police confirmed that the attack against Viejo Velasco had been planned and deliberate.

Recently a group of subcomuneros had carried out provocative actions in Viejo Velasco, such as cutting off the water supply to the community. The community demanded that they leave and they signed a document stating that they would leave the community on November 11. Two days later they came back as part of the aggressors against Viejo Velasco.

In the first reports of this attack the survivors denounced 11 deaths of people from their community, including 2 children, and 4 from Nuevo Palestina. These numbers were the result of the total confusion and chaos in the community as people dispersed fleeing into the mountains. When they gathered again, they assumed all the people missing as dead. The families remain displaced in various communities in precarious conditions.

There have been threats by the Lacandon community that events like this attack against Viejo Velasco could “repeat themselves” if five communities (among them Viejo Velasco) are not relocated.


Conflicts around land issues in the Selva Lacandona, Chiapas State, have brought violence to indigenous communities for decades, starting with a presidential decree of 1972 that granted 614.000 hectares of land to the Lacandon community, disregarding the presence of other communities in that same region. In 1984 an agreement was signed that relocated Tzeltal and Ch’ol communities such as Viejo Velasco to the region where they are at present and where this most recent attack took place. Following another agreement in 2005, the Federal and State government committed to regularize the land rights of 28 communities, including that of Viejo Velasco Suarez. However, since April 2006, conflicts began again because four communities were being left out of this regularization and the local government, allegedly with the support of pro-government militia groups and individuals from communities such as Nueva Palestina, began to threaten these communities with forced evictions and relocations.

[Note: In August 2006 Global Exchange organized a delegation to isolated communities in Montes Azules, Chiapas two hours hike from the closest road. Upon their return, the delegation participants wrote a report on the history and current situation in Montes Azules, describing vulnerable communities faced with frequent illegal and somethines violent eviction attempts.

Click here to see full report.

Please take these actions recommended by the Fray Bartolome Human Rights Center and Amnesty International:

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Spanish or your own language:

- urging the authorities to charge Diego Arcos Meneses with a recognisably criminal offence or to release him immediately and to investigate his reported beating and arbitrary arrest on 14 November;

- calling on the authorities to ensure the safety of the displaced inhabitants of Viejo Velasco Suarez, following the attack of 13 November by a group of armed individuals, some of whom wore security forces clothing;

- calling on the authorities to take emergency measures to establish the whereabouts of those who seem to be missing, and to ensure the safe release of those reportedly held hostage in Nueva Palestina;

- calling on the authorities to identify without delay those who were killed and to ensure a full, prompt and impartial forensic examination and secure protection of all evidence;

- calling for a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the violent confrontation of 13 November, in particular reports of official involvement, with the results to be made public and those responsible brought to justice.


Attorney General of Chiapas
Lic. Mariano Herrán Salvatti
Fiscal General de Justicia del Estado de Chiapas
Libramiento Norte s/n, tercer nivel, Colonia Infonavit “El Rosario”, CP 30064
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico
Fax: + 52 961 61 657 24

Salutation: Estimado Sr. Fiscal/Dear Attorney GeneGovernor of Chiapas
Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía
Gobernador del Estado de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas
Av. Central y Primera Oriente
Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México
Fax: + 52 961 612 5618/612 9189

Salutation: Dear Governor/Señor Gobernador
Federal Attorney General
Lic. Daniel Cabeza de Vaca
Procurador General de la República, Procuraduría General de la República
Reforma Cuauhtémoc esq. Violeta 75, Col. Guerrero, Delegación Cuauhtémoc
México D.F., C.P. 06 500, MEXICO
Fax: + 525 55 346 0908 (if a voice reply say: “me da tono de fax por favor”)

Salutation: Dear Attorney General / Señor Procurador
Minister of Public Security, Chiapas State
Lic. Horacio Schroeder Bejarano
Secretaría de Seguridad Pública
Libramiento Sur Oriente Km. 9
C.P. 29070 Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas
(01 961) 61 7-70-20
Fax: + 525 55 961 61 7-70-20 ext. 16045

Salutation: Dear Minister / Señor Secretario
Human rights organizations

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas A.C
Brasil No. 14 Barrio Mexicanos, CP. 29240, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Embassy of Mexico in the United States of America
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20006

Carlos de Icaza, Ambassador
Phone: (202) 728-1600
Fax: (202) 883-4320
Salutation: Dear Ambassador /Señor Embajador

Letter in Support of the People of Oaxaca:

A new sign-on support letter has been drafted. Signatories include Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Eve Ensler, Danny Glover, Eduardo Galeano, Michael Moore, Arundhati Roy, Alice Walker, Howard Zinn, and many others.

Visit Cuba and see for youself. Dec 26, 2006 -23 January 2007. An
Australasian brigade spends a month in Cuba visiting historic sights,
having discussions with unions and womenâ•˙s groups, staying with
families ∑ and doing a little agricultural labour to express your
support and solidarity with Cuba in the face of the US blockade. Total
costs are about $5000 for fares, accommodation and meals. And there is
also time to lie on a beach, walk along the Malecon and dance in a Havana nightclub.
Contact Ina for info and registration details 09 3031755;


Greener pastures ... in Chile?

Ironic that foreign land purchases and higher prices are driving NZers to Chile presumably also decreasing opportunities for local Chilean farmers! (
See also Pablo E. Guerrero, Retired Agric. Research Scientist
Previous issues have covered Fronterra's connections to Soprole, the Chilean Diary company.

Dissatisfied with the rising price of dairying land in New Zealand, 12 dairy farmers are off to look at prospects in South America. TIM CRONSHAW asks what makes the continent so attractive. Free cola and crisps will be the last thing on the minds of 12 dairy farmers when they board a flight bound for South America.,2106,3856248a6531,00.html

Chilean President Bachelet was is in Wellington on the 20th Nov while a group of Chilean young people
protested the Chilean Governments track record on environmental issues in particular a polluting pulp mill in Valdivia. Background info at or call Macarena 021 052 1470

Eye of the Hurricane: Milton Friedman, the Global South and Chile
By Walden Bello

While economists laud the recently deceased Milton Friedman for being “a champion of freedom whose work transformed economics and changed the world,” as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times put it, people in the South will remember the University of Chicago professor as the eye of a human hurricane that cut a swath of destruction through their economies. For them, Friedman will long be associated with two things: free-market reform in Chile and “structural adjustment” in the developing world.

Soon after the coup against the government of Salvador Allende on September 11, 1973, Chilean graduates of Friedman’s economics department, who were soon dubbed the “Chicago Boys,” took over the helm of the economy and launched a program of economic transformation with doctrinal vengeance. In light of his much-quoted assertion about political freedom going hand-in-hand with free markets, the irony that in Chile a free market paradise was being imposed with the bayonets of one of Latin America’s most bloodstained dictatorships could not have escaped the guru.

Yet Friedman visited Chile during the dictatorship, anointing the radical free-market, export-oriented thrust of the regime, praising Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet for his commitment to a “fully free market as a matter of principle,” and delivering talks with a title “The Fragility of Freedom” that could only be ironic in the Chilean context. Even as he accused his critics of being bent on “tarring and feathering” him with the regime’s human rights abuses, Friedman took pride in his doctrinal inspiration of what he described as the “Chilean Miracle.”

The Chilean Experiment

After his disciples were done with it, Chile was indeed radically transformed…for the worse.

Free market policies subjected the country to two major depressions twice in one decade, first in 1974-75, when GDP fell by 12 per cent, then again in 1982-83, when it dropped by 15 per cent.

Contrary to ideological expectations about free markets and robust growth, average GDP growth in the period 1974-89--the radical Jacobin phase of the Friedman-Pinochet revolution--was only 2.6 per cent, compared to over 4 per cent a year in the period 1951-71, when there was a much greater role of the state in the economy.

By the end of the radical free-market period, both poverty and inequality had increased significantly. The proportion of families living below the “line of destitution” had risen from 12 to 15 per cent between 1980 and 1990, and the percentage living below the poverty line, but above the line of destitution, had increased from 24 to 26 per cent. This meant that at the end of the Pinochet regime, some 40 per cent of Chile’s population, or 5.2 million of a population of 13 million, were poor.

In terms of income distribution, the share of the national income going to the poorest 50 per cent of the population declined from 20.4 per cent to 16.8 per cent, while the share going to the richest ten per cent rose dramatically from 36.5 per cent to 46.8 per cent.

In terms of the structure of the economy, the combination of erratic growth and radical trade liberalization resulted in “deindustrialization in the name of efficiency and avoiding inflation,” as one economist described it, with manufacturing’s share of of GDP declining from an average of 26 per cent in the late 1960’s to 20 per cent in the late eighties. Many metalworking and related manufacturing industries went under in an export-oriented economy that favored agricultural production and resource extraction.

Mitigating Friedmanism

The radical Friedman-Pinochet phase of the Chilean economic counterrevolution came to an end in the early 1990’s, after the Concertacion came to power. In violation of classic Friedmanism, this center-left coalition increased social spending to improve Chile’s income distribution, bringing down the proportion of people living in poverty from 40 per cent to 20 per cent of the population. This modification, which increased internal purchasing power, contributed to the post-Pinochet average yearly growth rate of six per cent a year.

However, with the social democratic regime unwilling to challenge the upper classes, the basic neoliberal contours of economic policy were kept, including the emphasis on agricultural and natural resource exports. This focus on primary product exports has created tremendous environmental stresses. Overfishing along Chile’s coasts has gone hand in hand with ecological destabilization from the spread of the fresh salmon and mussel farms inland. A booming wood export industry has promoted the growth of tree plantations at the expense of natural forests, resulting in Chile becoming the second most deforested area in Latin America after Brazil. Environmental management is widely acknowledged to be ineffective, being consistently subverted by the imperatives of export-oriented growth.

Exporting the “Revolution”

Chile was the guinea pig of a free market paradigm that was foisted on other third world countries beginning in the early 1980’s through the agency of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Some 90 developing and post-socialist economies were eventually subjected to free-market, “structural adjustment.” From Ghana to Argentina, state participation in the economy was drastically curtailed, government enterprises passed to private hands in the name of efficiency, protectionist barriers on Northern imports were eliminated wholesale, restrictions on foreign investment were lifted, and, through export-first policies, the domestic economy was more tightly integrated into the capitalist world market.

Structural adjustment policies (SAPs), which set the stage for the accelerated globalization of developing country economies during the 1990’s, created the same poverty, inequality, and environmental crisis in most countries that free-market policies did in Chile, minus the moderate growth of the post-Friedman-Pinochet phase. As the World Bank chief economist for Africa admitted, “We did not think the human costs of these programs could be so great, and the economic gains so slow in coming.” So discredited were SAPs that the World Bank and IMF soon changed their names to “Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers” in the late 1990’s.

Yet free-market and structural adjustment policies have been institutionalized so thoroughly that, despite their being now universally seen as dysfunctional, they continue to reign. The legacy of Milton Friedman will be with the developing world for a long time to come. Indeed, there is probably no more appropriate inscription for Friedman’s gravestone than what William Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.

Walden Bello is professor of sociology at the University of the Philippines and executive director of the Bangkok-based institute Focus on the Global South.

Bolivian Leaders Cut Ties With Morales:
Six of Bolivia's nine regional governors have severed communications with President Evo Morales's government in recent days, intensifying protests against the ruling party's efforts to rewrite the constitution, implement a controversial land reform policy and limit the regional governments' powers.

Ecuador's Correa says he won't renew lease for US military base :
Leftist Rafael Correa, unofficially the winner of Ecuador's presidential election, reiterated he would not renew the US lease for a military air base in the South American country.

12 South American countries to have 'open borders':
The governments of 12 countries in South America have signed an agreement to allow their citizens to travel between them without passports.

Pinochet indicted for deaths of Allende bodyguards:
Former dictator General Augusto Pinochet was indicted Monday and ordered to remain under house arrest for the execution of two bodyguards of Salvador Allende, the freely elected Marxist president who was toppled in a 1973 coup.

Latin America is preparing to settle accounts with its white settler elite
By Richard Gott
The recent explosion of indigenous protest in Latin America, culminating in the election this year of Evo Morales, an Aymara indian, as president of Bolivia, has highlighted the precarious position of the white-settler elite that has dominated the continent for so many centuries.

The Secret Wars Of The CIA: : How 6 million People Were killed in CIA secret wars:
John Stockwell, former CIA Station Chief in Angola. He is a very compelling speaker and the highest level CIA officer to testify to the Congress about his actions. He estimates that over 6 million people have died in CIA covert actions, and this was in the late 1980's.

Who is Robert Michael Gates : Involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal:
Owing to his senior status in the CIA, Gates was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities.

Protest sheds light on role of Benning school
Like clockwork, thousands of protesters are returning to Fort Benning, Ga., to demand closure of the school where U.S. military and civilian experts help train their counterparts from Latin American and Caribbean countries.

This year, however, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation stands to add hundreds of students from those countries even as protesters complain that many of the foreign military members trained at the school return home to oppress the public as tools of corrupt governments. Up to 20,000 protesters were expected to gather outside the Army post’s main gate from Friday through Sunday.

More on Oaxaca
3,000 delegates gathered from all regions of Oaxaca to create the State Council of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (CEAPPO).

"CEAPPO has formed in the face of the extreme repression currently underway by the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, who operates both through his PRI and paid henchmen and police in civilian clothes. The spirit of the CEAPPO is revolutionary, in a pacific, democratic and humanistic stance which is openly anti neoliberal and based on the traditional people power shown in usos y costumbres ('uses and customs'), a method of governing which is open and face to face. Ample provisions for recall of officials, referenda and plebiscites are included in the form of the council.

"In content, CEAPPO supports economic social justice, equality of persons, respect for differences, respect for the rights of women, respect for indigenous people and their autonomy, and development in benefit of the peoples of Oaxaca with high concern for sustainability and renewable resources.

"...While the congress was gathering for its first day of meetings, the zocalo was occupied by the Federal Preventive Police, and the tourist area was occupied by the APPO and teachers who won't return to classes while danger exists. During the time period of November 1 to November 10, about 49 students and APPO leaders were snatched off the street without warrants by men in civilian clothing who drove unmarked automobiles. Among the apprehended were two minors. Civil rights violations perpetrated by the government included entering private homes without warrant to arrest the highly visible people of the APPO and the teachers."

Despite the creation of the new, people-operated government body, danger still lingers for visible leaders of the former APPO movement, a clear sign of this being the continued blockade of University City, where radio broadcasters are unable to leave out of fear for their more at .......

Honduras fines U.S. subsidiary over alleged mercenary training

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - The Honduran government said Friday it has fined the local subsidiary of a U.S. company $25,000 for allegedly training more than 300 Hondurans and foreigners last year to work as mercenaries in Iraq.

The company Your Solutions trained 340 Hondurans, Chileans and Nicaraguans in violation of labor laws, Public Safety Department spokesman Santos Flores told a news conference.

"The fine was imposed because the company was training mercenaries, and the act of being a mercenary is a form of violating labor rights in whatever country," Flores said, adding that the company, which he said is based in Chicago, Illinois, "operated without permission in Honduras."

Benjamin Canales, general manager of the Honduras-based subsidiary of Your Solutions, fled the country six months ago, Flores said.

The company could not immediately be reached in Chicago for comment late Friday.

In September 2005, Canales, a retired member of the Honduran military, said the company's trainees were private security guards "not mercenaries, as some people have called them."

"These are just people who want a job, and we have offered them one," Canales said.

Friday's fine was the second action the Honduran government has taken against the company. In September 2005, authorities - citing a federal law that prohibits security and military training for foreigners on Honduran soil - said that they were deporting 211 Chileans who came to Tegucigalpa to be trained by the company.

An investigation by the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier this year determined that the trainees were employed as private security guards, as Canales said, but received military training in both Honduras and Iraq and ended up performing duties not established in their employment contracts.

The company did not operate in secret in Honduras. In August 2005, it issued a public news release saying it had trained and sent a third group of 12 Hondurans, most of them former soldiers, to Iraq to work as private security guards.

Most of the trainees worked for six-month stints in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The company said each of the guards would earn a minimum monthly salary the equivalent of $990 U.S. dollars, 80 percent of which would be sent to their families in Honduras. A private security guard in Honduras earns about $250 a month. English-speaking guards were to be paid a higher salary, from $1,300 to $1,600 a month, the company said.

The Honduran government at one time sent peacekeeping troops to aid the U.S.-led mission in Iraq, but has since withdrawn its forces. [AP]

The Danger of Hugo Chávez's Successful Socialism
by Ted Rall

When the hated despots of nations like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan loot their countries' treasuries, transfer their oil wealth to personal Swiss bank accounts and use the rest to finance (in the House of Saud's case) terrorist extremists, American politicians praise them as trusted friends and allies. But when a democratically elected populist president uses Venezuela's oil profits to lift poor people out of poverty, they accuse him of pandering.

As the United States and Europe continue their shift toward a Darwinomic model where rapacious corporations accrue bigger and bigger profits while workers become poorer and poorer, the socialist economic model espoused by President Hugo Chávez has become wildly popular among Latin Americans tired of watching corrupt right-wing leaders enrich themselves at their expense. Left-of-center governments have recently won power in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Chávez's uncompromising rhetoric matches his politics, but what's really driving the American government and its corporate masters crazy is that he has the cash to back it up.

In their desperate frenzy to destroy Chávez, state-controlled media is resorting to some of the most transparently and hilariously hypocritical talking points ever. In the April 4th New York Times Juan Forero repeated the trope that Chávez's use of oil revenues is unfair -- even cheating somehow: "With Venezuela's oil revenues rising 32 percent last year," the paper exclaimed, "Mr. Chávez has been subsidizing samba parades in Brazil, eye surgery for poor Mexicans and even heating fuel for poor families from Maine to the Bronx to Philadelphia. By some estimates, the spending now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America."

Chávez, the story continued, is poised to become "the next Fidel Castro, a hero to the masses who is intent on opposing every move the United States makes, but with an important advantage."

Heavens be! A rich country using its wealth to spread influence abroad! What God would permit such an abomination? Notice, by the way, that the United States funds "development programs." Oh, and it's a "drug war" -- not a bombing campaign against leftist insurgents who oppose South America's few remaining pro-U.S. right-wing regimes.

Quoted by the Times -- which editorialized in favor of and ran flattering profiles of the right-wing oligarchs who attempted to overthrow Chávez in a 2002 coup attempt -- is "critic" John Negroponte, whose day job happens to be as Bush's Director of National Intelligence. Negroponte complained that Chávez is "spending considerable sums involving himself in the political and economic life of other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, this despite the very real economic development and social needs of his own country."

Pot, kettle, please discuss the $1 billion a week we're wasting on Iraq while people die for lack of medical care and schools fall apart right here in America. Maybe Chávez should have found a better use for the money he spent on Rio's Carnival parade. On the other hand, at least it didn't go to bombs and torture camps.

Televangelist Pat Robertson's 2005 call to assassinate Chávez was criticized only mildly by establishment media, and primarily on the basis that murdering heads of state violates a U.S. law. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accuses Chávez of a "Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain." Which ones? Certainly not Venezuela itself, where a double-digit-GDP boom leads the region and new houses, $10 billion per year is banked for future anti-poverty programs and schools are sprouting like weeds.

Loaded language unworthy of a junior high school newspaper is the norm in coverage of the Venezuelan president. "Chavez insists his government is democratic and accuses Washington of conspiring against him," the San Jose Mercury-News wrote on April 3rd. Why the "insists"? No international observer doubts that Venezuela, where the man who won the election gets to be president, is at least as democratic as the United States. The 2002 coup plotters gathered beforehand at the White House. Surely the Merc could grant Chávez's "accusation" as fact. The paper continued: "He says the United States was behind a short-lived 2002 coup, an allegation that U.S. officials reject." He also happens to be right, though it's hard to tell by reading that sentence.

Eighty-two percent of Venezuelans think Chávez is doing a good job. That's more than twice the approval rating by Americans of Bush. He roundly defeated an attempt to recall him. So why is Washington lecturing Caracas?

"The [Venezuelan] government is making billions of dollars [from its state oil company] and spending them on houses, education, medical care," notes CNN. And – gasp -- people's lives are improving.

What if the rest of us noticed? No wonder Chávez has to go.

Fidel Castro Handbook: New book by George Galloway

Unforgettable images, quotes, media stories—a documentary-style, wide-ranging, and thoughtful assessment of the most iconic political leader of recent times who, George Galloway claims, is the most popular politician in the world today.

Unique interviews with people who know Fidel Castro, plus exclusive new material encompassing all aspects of his life, career and presidency.

In the year that Fidel Castro turns 80, this is a fresh look at his life from childhood, through his dramatic conquest of power, and his extraordinary, charismatic leadership of Cuba over 47 years—including sharply focused “takes” on the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra, life with the Soviet Union, involvement in Third World politics, and survival in the face of the hostility of the United States just 90 miles away.

George Galloway has researched archives from Havana, London, Washington, and Madrid and conducted original interviews with Fidel Castro’s contemporaries, in Cuba and throughout the world, that provide fascinating insights into his personality and achievements.

The themes that the book covers include: internationalism; race; the Cuban Missile Crisis; Fidel, the man behind the beard; Batista's bordello state; How the war was won; Fidel as orator; the emulators: Chavez and Morales; the cigars which didn't explode – attempts to assassinate Fidel; Celia Sánchez – right hand woman; Faith and Fidel (Church in Cuba: deep in the culture? what’s happening now? Pope's visit); the Che Factor; and the Miami-Cuban exiles.

On November 20th, Brazil celebrated Black Consciousness Day. The article below is about one group’s efforts to strengthen Brazil’s cultural ties to Africa by facilitating exchanges between children of Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil.

Without Africa, what is Brazil?

By Dirce Carrion, director of Olhares Cruzadas project

"Without Angola, there is no Brazil," said the polemical Fr. Antonio Vieira at the beginning of the 17th Century. Now we, being the largest black nation second only to Nigeria, ask the question, "Without Africa, what is Brazil?"

During 350 years of black slavery in Brazil, millions of Africans were pulled out of their natural and social environments, condemned to years of dispersion and miscegenation, marketed and sold in the most perverse, harsh and lucrative business of the New World.

Brazil and Africa were united in a tragic form through the trafficking of slaves. But we could say poetically that it was the waves and the winds of the Atlantic Ocean that united us in historic resistance to slavery and social exclusion. Perhaps the oldest and most effective form of resistance can be found in our rituals and the various manifestations of our Afro-Brazilian cultures.

The terrible journey across the Atlantic did not deprive the African people of the memories of their gods, nor the ability to recognize foreign gods, and certainly not their ability to identify with others in their state of slavery. It was through this constant interchange that gave birth to Afro-Brazilian culture.

Africa still suffers from the effects of the immense exodus of workers. It suffers from colonialism’s arbitrary division of its territories which grouped together ethnic rivals and separated groups that were friendly to each other, generating incessant internal strife. But the strength of its ancient culture continues to be a unique and fundamental reference for the world.

In the last decades, economic interests have destroyed the lives of millions around the world. The peoples of Africa, still wrapped up in the long process of de-colonizing themselves, have paid dearly in this contemporary Holocaust. It is very serious that the world stands by as this happens. But now, hoping to understand this context better and to change it, we are proposing new steps which may engender a different Brazil-Africa exchange, with new a basis for relationships, without personal agendas and certainly not neo-colonial motives. Now that political dependency on the colonizers has been cut off, the ex-colonies have begun to talk more about friendship and cooperation among themselves. We believe that now is the time to diversify and increase the quality of our relations through increased mutual understanding.

Yet the greater part of our information about Africa comes through the media, which only highlights the negative: wars, epidemics, hunger, misery. We envision changing the way we see Africa; and to do this, we need to highlight the positive: the strength of its cultures and its history of resistance.

This is the line we are taking in our project, Olhares Cruzados. The project promotes the identification of common, cultural roots through the exchange of photographs, cards, drawings, videos, toys, musical instruments and crafts produced by children of Brazil, Africa and the Caribbean while participating in creative, imaginative workshops. Using artistic methods which permit the children to use their own language, our intention is to help children make these methods of expression their own so that they can see themselves in their work, through their own way of looking, not through a "colonialist" or vertical reading in which the context is not accessible to the agents.

Taking into account the local reality and respecting the traditional culture of each country, we facilitate exchanges between children from Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Senegal and Haiti, the latter being the first independent country of the Americas and the first free black nation of the world.

In 2007, together with Revista Viracao, project Olhares Cruzados plans to host an exchange between children of a MST (Movement of Rural Workers Without Land) encampment and children of a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The plan is to send a team of Brazilians to conduct workshops in the Congo, and then in the spirit of reciprocity, we will invite African educators and artists to come and do the same here in Brazil.

Whether they be from Africa, Brazil or the Caribbean, the children always want to deal with themes that are most dear to them: family, friends, television, toys, food, the parts of home life that are the "prettiest." We have noticed that even in regions where the reality is very difficult, the children’s letters, drawings and artwork are permeated with happiness and a hope for a better future.

Believing that self-esteem is essential in overcoming prejudices and the barriers that are placed in front of them, we always try to have them look through an optimistic lens so that they will have a better chance of inserting themselves in the world.

In Brazil, where many do not believe that racism exists (but the society continues to practice it), it is up to us Brazilians and Africans to show that the waters that brought slavery and different cultures also created a solid bridge, which many still refuse to recognize.

Believing in the possibilities that it offers, as a form of expression and communication, a way to promote peace, a fight against social exclusion and racial intolerance, we hope that Olhares Cruzadas project be one more step in the long journey of making right the cultural relations among peoples.

Source: Revista Sem Terra, November/December 2006