Thursday, October 26, 2006

Solidarity News October 26th 2006

William Blum: Operation Because We Can:
For 27 years, the most powerful nation in the world has found it impossible to share the Western Hemisphere with one of its poorest and weakest neighbors, Nicaragua, if the country's leader was not in love with capitalism.

Bolivia for Single, Free Health Care:
The Bolivian government pledged its commitment to a single and free health system in which all citizens have the same rights, according to a proposal presented to the Constituent Assembly on Saturday.

Adios Ruiz, Bienvenidos AEPO

By Julie Webb-Pullman

Eight thousand members of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) arrived in Mexico City Monday, having left their home on 21 September to march almost 500 kilometres to Mexico City to demand the ouster of their Governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. They accuse him “of irreparable damage to human patrimony, of the assassination of social leaders, of the mismanagement of state finances, of “ethnocide,” of violating United Nations and UNESCO decrees including the guarantee of individual liberties, of promoting violence in the state” and of being incapable of resolving conflicts through diplomatic means.

Since taking power in December 2003, Ruiz has systematically persecuted his political opponents, killing 38 leaders of indigenous’, workers’, and independent organisations, ‘disappearing’ a few more, and detaining and incarcerating more than 200 political prisoners.

Whilst his relentless repression, corruption, and abuses of human rights terrorised many into silence, the teachers of Oaxaca spoke for all when on Mexico’s Teachers’ Day on 15 May this year they said, Ya Basta! Enough!

Atenco HUman Rights Commission Report

Nancy Davies' new commentary from Oaxaca reveals that, despite
the continuing repression in that rebel state and the seemingly
endless stalemate on a solution with the federal government, the
people continue to find new reasons to have hope. She describes ten
key developments from the last few days, including:

"Over the weekend in the capital city of Oaxaca, during a forty-eight
hour period, ten different marches took place. They followed a public
funeral in the zocalo's central pavilion for Alejandro García, who
died from a gunshot wound to the head while he was at the barricade
in Colonia Alemán, bringing coffee to the night team. A car with
four military men in civilian clothes, recently seen leaving a local
cantina, tried to beak the barricade. During the ensuing scuffle two
members of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its
Spanish initials) were shot, the second victim in the arm. The
accused soldier, Jonathan Ríos Vásquez, declared himself innocent."

"...An indigenous Nahuátl and Mazatec community radio station,
Nandia, was attacked and destroyed by government agents. The women
who ran the station belong to an organization of Mazatec indigenous
women. After the attack they tried to leave the small northern town
of Mazatlán Villa de Flores to travel to the capital, hoping to make
known their outrage (non-licensed indigenous radio stations are
presumably guaranteed in the Oaxaca state constitution), but the only
road out of town was blocked by people identified only as
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) loyalists. The Mazatec women
were planning a hunger strike in the atrium of the Cathedral in
Oaxaca. La Jornada of October 7 indicates that the attack was called
for by the state interior secretary and was carried out by the local
PRI. Now the women are calling on international support for the

"...In order for the Oaxacan people, authorities, and indigenous
organizations to come together for discussions, the APPO and other
various sponsors held the Dialogue for Peace on Friday October 13 in
Oaxaca City. The importance of that meeting is that the former bishop
of Chiapas, Samuel Ruiz, once again showed up and spoke for five
minutes. This indicates that Ruiz - who has come three times that I
know of - has put his whole moral weight behind the Oaxaca movement,
most likely because of the movement's importance for indigenous

Read Davies' full commentary, and keep following the events in
Mexico's most indigenous and most revolutionary state:


After a heated all-night assembly, on the morning of Oct. 22
delegates of 70,000 teachers in the southern Mexican state of
Oaxaca voted down a proposal to end a strike that has paralyzed
the capital city, also named Oaxaca, for five months. At the
beginning of the assembly, Enrique Rueda Pacheco, general
secretary of Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union
(SNTE), announced that in a membership consultation held Oct. 19-
20, teachers had voted 26,000 to 15,000 to accept an agreement
negotiated with the federal Governance Secretariat (interior
ministry) and return to teaching on Oct. 30. But union delegates
charged that the voting was "rigged" because of the way the
questions were presented, and decided to hold a new consultation
Oct. 23-24. Many denounced Rueda as a "sellout" and "traitor."
Anger at Rueda is so intense that he tried to slip into the
assembly through a back entrance while wearing dark glasses.
[Reuters 10/22/06; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/21/06, 10/22/06]

The teachers went on strike for cost-of-living increases and
better schools on May 22. After Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of the
centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) tried to end the
strike with a police assault on June 14, the teachers escalated
their demands to include Ruiz's removal from office. Indigenous
communities and social movements joined the mobilization, forming
a coalition, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO).
Together the teachers and APPO have occupied the capital's
downtown area and many government offices for most of the last
five months and have taken control of several radio stations.

The federal government, headed by outgoing president Vicente Fox
Quesada of the center-right National Action Party (PAN), has
negotiated on wage issues but refuses to discuss the removal of
Ruiz. The federal Senate has the power to remove a governor, but
on Oct. 19 senators from the PAN and PRI, along with the small
Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM), joined to block efforts
to oust Ruiz. The APPO and many teachers say they will not end
their mobilization as long as Ruiz is in office. [LJ 10/20/06]

The teachers say 10 strikers or supporters have been killed since
the strike started. The most recent victim was Panfilo Hernandez
Vazquez, an indigenous elementary school teacher. Several unknown
persons in a blue Jetta without license plates pulled up to
Hernandez on the evening of Oct. 18 as he was leaving a local
APPO meeting in the Jardin section of Oaxaca city. They shot him
three times in the abdomen at close range. [LJ 10/19/06,

A revolution with an absolute minimum of violence:
- It’s not ‘news’ – but it should be
Today it’s Sunday (8 Oct 2006) in Oaxaca, beautiful clear air, sunny, a morning to enjoy a mole tamale and hot coffee for breakfast..........
Human rights workers attacked Colombia:

Amnesty International released a report Sept. 7 blasting the Colombian government for giving a "green light" for attacks against human rights workers in the country.
Tens of thousands of indigenous people and their allies focused
on neoliberal economic programs, US foreign policies and local
issues in protests throughout the Americas on Oct. 12, the 514th
anniversary of the arrival of European colonizer Christopher
Columbus in the hemisphere.

Thousands of marchers celebrated the "Day of Indigenous
Resistance" in Guatemala City after the conclusion of an
international meeting there on agrarian reform. The protesters--
including campesinos from six countries and members of dozens of
Guatemalan indigenous organizations and the National Coordinating
Committee of Campesino Organizations (CNOC)--carried signs
demanding "respect for multiculturalism," "no to discrimination
and exclusion" and "stop the removals," referring to police and
military operations against campesinos occupying private estates.
As the march passed by the US embassy, protesters denounced US-
imposed neoliberal policies and demanded an end to aggression
against Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela.

On the Pacific coast, hundreds of Guatemalans blocked a highway
leading to the Mexican border to express opposition to the
government's rural policies. Other protesters blocked the Inter-
American highway in the northwestern department of Huehuetenango
to demand an end to licensing for foreign mining companies. There
were also protests in Quetzaltenango in the west, Coban in the
center, and various municipalities in the northern department of
Peten, according to Juan Tiney of the National Indigenous and
Campesino Coordinating Committee. [Prensa Latina 10/12/06; El
Mostrador (Chile) 10/12/06 from EFE; La Jornada (Mexico) 10/13/06
from AFP, DPA, Reuters]

Hundreds of Hondurans representing indigenous and African-
descended communities demonstrated in front of the US embassy in
Tegucigalpa on Oct. 12 to protest economic policies promoted by
the US. The organizations called European colonization "the most
gigantic robbery of world history" and denounced "neo-
colonization" by the "US empire." The participants included
indigenous Lencas from the western departments of Lempira and
Intibuca on the border with El Salvador; the Lencas had
demonstrated on Oct. 11 against the building of the El Tigre dam
in their territories [see Update #861]. [EM 10/12/06 from EFE; LJ
10/13/06 from AFP, DPA, Reuters]

The dam was also the target of a protest that dozens of Civic
Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras
(COPINH) members had held on Oct. 3 at the Club Campestre, 30km
north of Tegucigalpa, as Central American presidents met there
for a regional security summit. COPINH declared Salvadoran
president Elias Antonio Saca persona non grata in Honduras for
his promotion of El Tigre, which "would put an end to entire
villages in San Antonio, Mapulaca, Piraera, Santa Lucia, Virginia
and La Virtud municipalities in Honduras, and others in El
Salvador, displacing more than 20,000 people, who would lose
their homes, their culture, their lands, their way of life and
their social networks." The group also objected to the presence
of Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, Mexico's official president-elect,
"given that his designation as president of Mexico is the product
of shameful electoral fraud." [EFE 10/3/06 via Univision TV (US)]

In Colombia some 700 Bari indigenous people marched on Oct. 12 in
Tibu, near the Venezuelan border in Norte de Santander
department, to demand that the state oil company Ecopetrol
suspend its exploratory drilling near their territory. The Bari,
who say they have been victimized by government-backed
"genocides" since 1932, carried bows and arrows along with signs
in what was apparently their first protest. Interior Deputy
Minister Maria Isabel Nieto had told the media that according to
military intelligence reports the Bari were being supported by
the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Observers from human rights organizations and the United Nations
said they saw no evidence of involvement by armed groups. [El
Diario-La Prensa (NY) 10/13/06 from AP; LJ 10/13/06 from AP]

Lisardo Domico, general secretary of the National Indigenous
Organization of Colombia (ONIC), declared Oct. 12 a day of
mourning. He noted that violence against indigenous communities
continues--from the military, leftist rebels and rightwing
paramilitaries. Some 104 indigenous people died violently in
2005, he said, while 18 have been killed and 28 have been
disappeared so far this year; ONIC says 5,731 indigenous people
were displaced from January to September. [El Siglo de Torreon
(Coahuila, Mexico) 10/13/06 from Notimex]

In Argentina, the National Institute Against Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Racism, which is under the authority of the
Interior Ministry, proposed ending Oct. 12's status as a holiday.
Venezuela has already officially renamed the date "Day of
Indigenous Resistance" [see Update #820]. [LJ 10/13/06 from AFP,
DPA, Reuters]
Weekly News Update on the Americas

U.S. cuts economic aid for Colombia area:
Six years and more than $4 billion in American tax dollars after Plan Colombia was launched in Caqueta, Colombia's army is still fighting rebels here, and coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine, is still the region's No. 1 cash crop.

Friends of the Right to Know!
Great news: the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that there is a general right of access to information held by government. This is the first such ruling from an international tribunal. It's a decision to celebrate!
The Inter-American Court's decision in the case of Claude Reyes and others vs. Chile was released today and finds Chile in violation of the right of access to state-held information (The case dates from a request made in 1998 by three environmental activists about a controversial logging project; no information was provided nor a reasoned refusal. For a reminder/summary of the facts of the case, see
The decision also makes clear that to give full effect to this right, States must adopt legal and other provisions that ensure effective exercise of the right to information as well as define limited exemptions to be applied in ways that will cause minimum restriction of the right.
The Court further requires the Chilean state to train public officials on the right to information and the international standards for exemptions.
Spanish version of the decision:
Spies, Lies and Visa Red Tape
The Case of the Cuban Five and Their Wives
by Julie Webb-Pullman

Wow! The US doesn’t only do it in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Europe, Asia and North Africa – they practice cruel and inhuman imprisonment right there at home as well!! And despite the daily diet of anti-terrorist rhetoric their mainstream media dishes up as nauseum, for the last eight years there has been only misinformation, Miaminformation, or an iron curtain of silence regarding the treatment of five Cuban anti-terrorist political prisoners in the U.S. and their families. Http://

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Latin America Solidarity News October 12th 2006

Latin America Solidarity Committee
Lac Email
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Peña Cultural Latina Alternative Mondays from 6th October 6pm 128 Abel Smith St

Listen to Voz Latinoamericana Wellington Access Radio 783AM
Mondays 5-6pm Ph 021 548 985 or
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Protest in Solidarity with the people of Oaxaca, Mexico
Friday, 13th October, 1pm outside the Mexican Embassy
corner Lambton Quay and Willis st (outside Old Bank Arcade)
There will be a pinata and an opportunity to share information about
what's happening in Mexico.
All welcome!
more information:

Peña Cultural Latina 20th October, Friday 6pm
Films, live music, food and conversation from 6pm
128 Abel-Smith St, Wellington. All welcome. Please come along and bring your friends

Wellington 10th–14th October 2006


* Tentative Deal Reached to End Mexico Oaxaca Crisis *

Leaders of protests trying to bring down a Mexican state governor they say is corrupt tentatively agreed late on Monday to scale back a months-old occupation of the tourist city of Oaxaca.

After thousands of protesters marched for days to get to Mexico City, the government and leaders of a teachers union said they made a deal that could see the protesters cede control of most of downtown Oaxaca to local police under federal supervision.

Leftist activists and striking teachers have shut down the colonial center of Oaxaca for four months, hoping to force the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who they accuse of corruption, heavy-handed tactics and ignoring widespread poverty.

Tensions High in Oaxaca as Fox Warns Force Might Be Used to Crush Uprising:
In Oaxaca, Mexico, tensions remain high over concerns that the government is planning to use force to crush a populist uprising there. Over the weekend, military aircraft began flying over Oaxaca City and additional troops were deployed to nearby army posts.... more information pasted below

Crisis Escalates as Marines Land in Oaxaca
Governor's Departure Now a National Demand,
as Political Figures Pledge to Travel to the State as
"Human Shields" in the Event of an Attack

Latin America Declares Independence
By Noam Chomsky

Five centuries after the European conquests, Latin America is reasserting its independence. In the southern cone especially, from Venezuela to Argentina, the region is rising to overthrow the legacy of external domination of the past centuries and the cruel and destructive social forms that they have helped to establish.

Paraguay hardens U.S. military stance:

Paraguay's decision to refuse diplomatic immunity for U.S. troops and not to renew a military cooperation pact sparked debate Tuesday, with analysts calling the developments a blow to U.S. attempts to improve regional ties.

Here's why Chávez is so mad:

A quick glance at recent U.S. policy and posture toward Venezuela gives us some clues as to why people in Venezuela are getting set to reelect a president who calls the United States an empire.

U.S. must be more relevant in Latin America: experts:

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has had sway over Latin America's smaller economies but could now eclipse the United States' influence over the third-largest economy, Argentina, two top former U.S. diplomats said on Tuesday.
Chavez denies being anti-US:

What we are against is the imperial elite and that is very different. : Aljazeera Interviews President Chavez of Venezuela

Stephen Lendman : Alvaro Vargas Llosa Sends Hugo Chavez to Dante's Inferno:

Since 1999, Hugo Chavez not only reduced poverty in Venezuela, he's greatly improved the living standards of his people from the non-cash benefits these programs provide.

Terror tactics return in Argentina :

A wave of threats against court officials and the disappearance of a key witness in a human rights trial have led to fears among some Argentinians that the terror tactics of the military dictatorship of the 1970s may have returned.,,1887683,00.html

Terrorists On No-Fly List: List Includes President Of Bolivia, Dead 9/11 Hijackers :

The National Security News Service, has obtained the secret list used to screen airline passengers for terrorists and discovered it includes names of people not likely to cause terror, including the president of Bolivia, people who are dead and names so common, they are shared by thousands of innocent fliers.

Attack on the people of Oaxaca.
The borderlands Hacklab, Electronic Disturbance Theater and Rising Tide NorthAmerica call for a virtual sit-in against the websites of the G8+5 and the Mexican government during the G8+5 meetings on October 3-4th, 2006 in Mexico.

While the Mexican government tries to play host to the G8+5 Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, it is mounting a massive violent attack on the people of Oaxaca. Apparently the Mexican government thinks it can cleanse the country of its growing pro-democracy rebellion while laying out a red carpet to world politicians including the G8 Energy Ministers. The neoliberal project of corporate globalization and fossil-fuel-based "energy security" that causes global warming is built on massive violence, from armies to riot police to militarized borders, to turn the global south into its sweatshop and repress the uprisings for justice, democracy, and sustainable livelihood of the people in Mexico and other countries.

While the neoliberal model of industrial "development" sees the remaining indigenous and "undeveloped" lands of the Earth as territories for capitalist exploitation of natural resources and human labor, the schoolteachers leading Oaxaca's popular pro-democracy strike have a different vision. By taking direct action to shut down the tyrannical rule of their state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, the people of Oaxaca are teaching that another world is possible.

On Sunday, October 1, 2006, a headline in the Mexico City daily Milenio proclaimed, "Preparations for war in Oaxaca," while Mexico City's El Universal newspaper reported that helicopters, planes and 15 troop trucks had assembled in Huatulco, a Pacific tourist getaway and military hub a short flight — but a long and difficult drive — from Oaxaca city.
According to the independent news website, which has been
covering the Other Campaign of the Zapatistas, on Sunday, October1, 2006:

"The Mexican Navy carried out a reconnaissance operation over the buildings and public spaces occupied by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials). Two MI-17 helicopters and one CASA C212 Navy airplane with registration number AMP-118 flew over the streets of the city – where opponents of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz have maintained several encampments over the past 130 days – for about 40 minutes."

"The zocalo, or central city square, the Oro and La Ley radio stations, the state government building, the Brenamiel and El Rosario radio antennas, as well as the Department of Finance building – all places where the rebels have installed protest camps – were reconnoitered by low-level flights of military aircraft. As they passed over the Radio Oro facilities, the two helicopters were fruitlessly "attacked" with fireworks that teachers of the National Education Workers' Union local Section 22 launched from Conzatti Garden. The airplane then made four more passes over the areas around the zocalo and returned to the airport, where five other military aircraft were stationed. At 5:30 that afternoon, the naval surveillance plane and two AMHT-202 and AMHT-205 helicopters landed on a city airstrip and let out 18 soldiers in black-and-grey camouflage, bulletproof vests, helmets and firearms."

"Lino Celaya Luría, state secretary of Citizen Protection, confirmed that the objective of the military flights was to "reconnoiter" the scene of the conflict, but claimed not to know if this was the prelude to an eventual federal operation to remove the protesters. The state official limited himself to saying: "We were informed that a flight would occur over the areas where the dissidents are present. We believe this is to obtain field information on the situation."

"Meanwhile, from the occupied radio stations, the rebels again declared a maximum alert in the face of what they imagine could be the beginning of a removal/eviction operation against the popular and teachers' movement."

Over half of the Oaxaca's 3.2 million people, most of whom are indigenous, live in poverty, and 21.5 percent of those over 15 are illiterate, while the average number of years of schooling is 5.6 years -- almost two less than Mexico's national average. Many students in Oaxaca's rural schools lack books and desks. In May, tens of thousands of teachers seized the capital's leafy central plaza to demand wage increases and improved school conditions. The following month, Governor Ulises Ruiz sent police to attempt to retake the heart of the city. Since then, radical social movements of workers, peasants, students, women and others have joined the striking teachers, building street barricades and taking over radio and television stations. They demand that Ruiz resign, alleging that he rigged the 2004 election and uses paramilitary gangs to attack dissidents. A total of five "megamarches" were organized with the largest reaching the astonishing number of around 300,000 people, or one out of ten people who live in the state.

During the protests, as many as six people have been killed in violent incidents which apparently involved irregular armed groups linked to the Ruiz administration and the police, according to human rights organisations. A number of demonstrators have also been arrested and injured, and further assaults perpetrated against them by organized, unidentified gangs of thugs have been reported.

One example of neoliberal "development" in Mexico with major implications for Oaxaca is Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), a transnational "mega-infrastructure" project that would transform the region's geography and economy if implemented. While claiming that one of its main goals is to improve the conditions for the people of the region, PPP is stealing land from indigenous people for infrastructure projects to move resources more quickly into the hands of multinational corporations and commodifying their culture for the tourist industry. One of the projects affecting Oaxaca is the creation of a super highway at Mexico's skinniest point, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in order to move resources more readily across the land from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This transportation corridor will be surrounded with sweatshops, maquiladoras, operating without labor and environmental protections. For all of these objectives, neoliberal control over the government of Oaxaca is key to the realization of the PPP project.

Mexico has an ugly history of military repression that coincides with major world gatherings occurring inside the country. 38 years ago today, October 2nd, the Mexican military massacred hundreds of student protesters at Tlatelolco, just days before the 1968 Olympic Games began in Mexico City. If military violence against the pro-democracy protesters of Oaxaca occurs before, during or after the G8 meeting in Mexico, the G8 leaders as well as the Mexican military must be held accountable for the injuries and death. To prevent this, we demand that the G8 officials who are meeting this week in Mexico must publicly speak out to condemn the possibility of another Mexican massacre at Oaxaca.

We demand that the G8 end its support of destructive "carbon trading." The G8 is composed of the leaders of the richest 8 countries in the world, who are responsible for the policies of war, criminalization of cross-border human migration, and massive environmental destruction. While they claim to be meeting to solve the climate change crisis, they are in fact discussing carbon trading agreements that will allow corporations to profit while exporting their pollution to the global south. Carbon trading threatens to turn countries like Brazil into a "carbon sink" for the global north while ignoring the underlying capitalist ideology of endless growth and boundless consumption that is creating massive climate change.

Help us stop the G8 by slowing the propaganda systems that the G8+5 and the Mexican Government will be using during the meetings and the attacks to spread disinformation about their actions. As in our previous actions, people from all around the world will make their virtual presence manifest on the doorstep of the G8+5 and the Mexican Government.

More news and updates about the unfolding situation in Oaxaca at
More information on resistance to the G8+5 meeting in Mexico City at

Chavez ally surges in Ecuadorean race

PUJILI, Ecuador

A U.S.-trained economist has suddenly become the front-
runner in Oct. 15 presidential elections by pledging to
"give the lash" to his nation's corrupt political class
and delivering an anti-U.S. message similar to that of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On a recent afternoon, Rafael Correa spoke to thousands
of Indians in their native Quichua, reminding them that
he lived among them two decades ago as a volunteer
teacher and development worker, and brandishing a belt
as he spoke out against the politicians who have long
oppressed them.

"Dale Correa!" - "Give them the belt!" - the crowd
responded, a play on the candidate's name.

Correa, 43, pledges to cut foreign debt payments and
re-negotiate contracts with foreign oil firms to
benefit Ecuador's poor majority. A relative political
newcomer, he has risen suddenly in the polls in the
last two weeks, alarming Washington and Wall Street -
not to mention Ecuador's political establishment.

Correa's rhetoric echoes that of other Chavez allies,
including President Evo Morales of Bolivia and Ollanta
Humala, the nationalist who came close to winning
Peru's presidency this year. Last week, Chavez called
President Bush "the devil" in a speech to the U.N.
General Assembly.

"Calling Bush the devil is offending the devil," Correa
told Channel 8 television Wednesday. "The devil is
evil, but intelligent."

"I believe Bush is a tremendously dimwitted president
who has done great damage to his country and to the
world," Correa said.

Tall, dark-skinned with blue eyes and exuding
confidence, Correa has about 27 percent backing in the
polls, 7 points ahead of his closest challenger, Leon
Roldos, a center-left former vice president.
Conservative former Rep. Cynthia Viteri trails a
distant third among 13 candidates.

If no candidate wins more than half the vote - or at
least 40 percent with a 10-percentage point advantage
over the nearest challenger - a runoff will be held on
Nov. 26.

In this small Andean nation notorious for its unstable,
corrupt politics - Ecuador has had seven presidents in
the last 10 years, three of whom were forced from
office - Correa is seen as something of an outsider.

Correa "is new, with a dynamic spirit, and I like
that," said Franklin Almachi, a 40-year-old Indian
merchant from the village of Guaytambo. "He doesn't
come off like the rest of the same old" politicians.

Until recently a professor at Quito's San Francisco
University, Correa earned his doctorate from the
University of Illinois in 2001.

He was a political unknown in April 2005, when he was
appointed economy minister. He was forced to resign
after four months when he failed to consult the
president before publicly lambasting the World Bank for
denying Ecuador a $100 million loan.

Since then, Correa has cozied up to Chavez, Latin
America's outspoken anti-U.S. crusader. Correa says
that in August he dined with Chavez and spent the night
at the home of the Venezuelan president's parents.

Chavez - who has been accused of meddling in elections
this year in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua to boost
leftist candidates - has made no public statement about
Correa or his presidential bid. Correa denies
allegations that Chavez is financing his campaign.

Correa describes himself as a man of "Christian
leftist" ideals, telling foreign correspondents on
Monday that "my political, economic and social thinking
is nourished by the sacred writings and social doctrine
of the church."

He opposes resuming stalled free-trade talks with
Washington and says he would not extend a treaty
scheduled to expire in 2009 that lets the U.S. military
use Manta air base for drug-surveillance flights.

Correa also says he will cut ties to international
lending institutions, including the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund, and has threatened a
moratorium on foreign debt payments unless foreign
bondholders agree to lower Ecuador's debt service by

Correa is even tougher on Ecuador's political class,
pledging to hold a constituent assembly to rewrite the
constitution to increase the executive branch's power.

His political foes say Correa would ruin the economy.
But not everyone familiar with his background agrees.

"My guess is that some of the posture he's taking now
is because that's the way he hopes to get elected and
win votes," said University of Illinois economics
professor Werner Baer, who sat on the committee that
approved Correa's doctorate. "Once in power, I doubt
that he would be virulently anti-American like Chavez."

Baer described Correa as a top-notch economist, and
said he would more likely follow the lead of President
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, who spooked
investors with radical discourse as candidate, but once
in office "became extremely orthodox in his economic

Latin America Solidarity Committee
Lac Email
LAC website
LAC blogg
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Zapatista blogg
Peña Cultural Latina Alternative Mondays from 6th October 6pm 128 Abel Smith St

Listen to Voz Latinoamericana Wellington Access Radio 783AM
Mondays 5-6pm Ph 021 548 985 or
Radio streaming -

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A bi-annual publication providing up todate information and analysis on developments in Latin America,
as well as news on solidarity activities in this country.
Subscriptions $15 per year, Supporter $30 Cheques/donations payable to
Latin America Committee, Box 6083, Wellington. Contact:

Other NZ links
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Overseas Links
News from Brazil
Mexico Solidarity Network:

LASNET Latin American Solidarity Network
CISLAC - Latin America Solidarity Australia
Network Opposed to the Plan Puebla Panama (NoPPP);
ACERCA - Plan Puebla Panama, Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA),
Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
Latin American Solidarity Coalition:
Latin American Agenda project team of the Social Justice Committee

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What is the Zapatista Solidarity Group?

We are a small group of people from Latin America, NZ and around the world, working to raise funds for Zapatista communities and raise awareness of their struggle. The funds will be used for a 4-wheel drive ambulance to serve several communities in rural Chiapas, Mexico. This ambulance is urgently needed as people living in these communities are unable to get emergency health care at present.

We hold regular events such as Penas Latinas (Latin American Cultural evenings), and we have regular meetings to plan our events and fundraising. We welcome new people to the group. If you would like to get involved, please contact us ( / 972 7260) or come along to one of our events!

For more info see:




We are affiliated with the Latin American Solidarity Committee

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Latin America Solidarity News 1st October 2006

Events, actions, trade and more news

Voz Latinoamericana Wellington Access Radio 783AM Mondays 5-6pm
(radio streaming -


Next Peña Cultural Latina 6th October, Friday 6pm
Films, live music, food and conversation from 6pm
128 Abel-Smith St, Wellington. All welcome. Please come along and bring your friends

"Eyes of the Rainbow" film screening Monday 9 October.
128 Abel-Smith St, Wellington

Auckland 27th September–11th October 2006
Wellington 10th–14th October 2006
Hamilton 5th–7th October
Raglan 8th October



How did we sink so low in just 6 years?
In a 253 to 168 “party-line” vote, the congress repealed habeas corpus and approved the torturing of prisoners in American custody. It is breathtaking assault on human rights and personal liberty and puts the United States well-outside the community of civilized nations.

Globalisation: make it work - Joseph Stiglitz
Another world is possible, says the renowned economist. But by crisis or choice?
Early in the book, Stiglitz contrasts developmental success in east Asia - whose governments, he said, kept a wary distance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - with economic instability and widening income inequality in Latin America, where the policies of the Washington consensus were followed to the letter.

Don't Cry to Them, Argentina
Is Monsanto playing fast and loose with Roundup Ready Soybeans in Argentina?

In Argentina, which ranks second only to the United States in production of genetically modified crops, agro-giant Monsanto's Roundup Ready Soybeans are increasingly ubiquitous -- and controversial. RR soy fields are taking over jungles and savannas, with steep social and environmental consequences; meanwhile, Monsanto is finagling in European courts to reap more profit from Argentine farmers. Kelly Hearn traces a story of industrial-ag shenanigans and eco-ruin.

Chavez's Oil Gift, Part II
September 21, 2006, New York Daily News

Hugo Chavez, the fiery president of oil-rich Venezuela, is
pumping up the volume - of cheap fuel oil for low-income New
Yorkers. And he's named a Kennedy as head salesman.

Individual homeowners and cooperatives in four of the city's
five boroughs will be able to buy cheap fuel this winter from
an oil-for-the-poor program, sources have told the Daily News.

CITGO Petroleum, the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's state-
owned oil company, has earmarked 25 million gallons of fuel
for low-income New York residents this year at 40% off the
wholesale market price.

That's enough fuel to heat 70,000 apartments, covering 200,000
New Yorkers, for the entire winter.

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Latin America,
U.S. Foreign Policy and the Role of the Indigenous People of Bolivia

Evo at the UN

Speech delivered by the president of the republic, Evo Morales Ayma, in front of the United Nations General Assembly. New York, September 19, 2006.

Thank you, president. Fellow brother and sister presidents, delegates to the 61 Ordinary Reunion of the United Nations.

It is an enormous satisfaction to be here present, representing my people, from my homeland, Bolivia and especially the indigenous movement.

I want to tell you, that after 500 years of be looked down upon, at times considered to be savages, animals, in some regions condemned to extermination, thanks to this consciousness and this uprising and to the struggle for the rights of the peoples I got to, we got here to repair the historic damage, to repair 500 years of damage.

During the republic, we were equally discriminated, marginalised, they never took into account this struggle of the peoples for life, for humanity during the last 20 years, with their application of an economic model - neoliberalism - that continued the looting of our natural resources, the privatisation of our basic services.

Convinced, and we are convinced, that the way of privatisation of basic services is the best way of violating human rights.

And these small considerations oblige me to say the truth here about the livelihoods of these families, I come to express this sentiment for the humanity of the peoples, from my people. I come here to express the suffering, the product of marginalisation, of exclusion, I come to express above all else, this anti-colonial sentiment of the peoples that struggle for equality and justice.

I want to say to all of the delegates, Ms president, that in my country we have begun to search for deep democratic and peaceful transformations, we are in a stage think of how to refound Bolivia, refound Bolivia to unite Bolivians, refound Bolivia nor to take revenge against anyone, despite the fact that we have been kept down through discrimination, refound Bolivia, above all, to finish with distain, hatred, against the peoples.

I say this because my mother was commenting to me, saying, that when she went to the city, she did not have to right to walk in the principal plazas of the cities of my country, they didn’t have the right to walk on the footpaths.

But happily we have decided to pass over from the social, union, communal struggle to an electoral struggle so that we ourselves can be the actors to resolve social problems, economic problems, structural problems, and we are waging for this Constituent Assembly of refoundation, and I would like the United Nations to participate in this process of peaceful and democratic change, which is the best we can do for these abandoned, marginalised families.

Certainly, many countries have the same problem as my country, a country, a nation with so much wealth but also with so much poverty, where the natural resources have historically been stolen, looted, auctioned off by the neoliberal government, handed over to the transnationals.

The time has come, now at the head of this struggle of the peoples for power and land, to recuperate, recuperate those natural resources for the Bolivian state under the control of the peoples.

And when we speak of recuperating our natural resources, via the dirty campaign of accusations, they say that the government of Evo Morales will not respect private property, I want to say to you, in my government private property will be respected.

It is true that we need investment, we need partners, not bosses, not owners of our natural resources, we understand perfectly that an underdeveloped country needs investment, and I want to say, to clarify in front of all of you some worries, some false accusations; if the state exercises the property rights of a natural resource such as natural gas, hydrocarbons, oil, then we don’t expel anyone, we don’t confiscate off anyone.

It will be respected, but we guarantee that they recover their investments and have make an earning, but they will not earn like before, from the (fat) so we are left not being able to resolve the social problems in my country later.

I want to say to you within this framework, I don’t come here to tell you how to govern or to threaten a country, or to begin to put conditions on a country, I only want you as international organisations, as a state with solidarity, as nations with principals of reciprocity, of brotherhood, to participate in this process of democratic change.

We have a great desire, a great interest in their being a conscious of this class in international forums, international reunions such as the United Nations to support, to wager on peaceful changes.

All of you know, especially here in North America as well as in Europe, that there are many Bolivians who go in search of work, before it use to be the Europeans that invaded Latin American, especially Bolivia, now it seems that the situation has changed, it is the Latin American, or the Bolivians, that are invading Europe like they did to the US before. Why? Because in this conjuncture, at this moment there is no job creation.

I want to say to all of you that we want to wager for a just trade, a peoples trade for the people, a trade which resolves the problem of jobs, that trade for companies is important is clear, but trade for micro and small producers, for cooperatives, for associations, collective companies, is more important.

I would like, and this is the one wish I have, that instead of my sisters and brothers going to Europe, how much better would it be that products go there and not human beings, and I believe that this has to do with consciousness in the international community, if we want to resolve the issue of immigration.

I have information that our sisters and brothers are not going there to monopolise thousands of hectares as those that came to Latin America did when they monopolise thousands of hectares, they came to take over ownership of our wealth, of our resources.

I believe that it is important that within this framework of trade, trade that is referred to as free trade, even in my country, affected and eliminated the large producers, the agro-industrialists, imagine the agreement signed by Colombia with the United States over the Free Trade Agreement, is already taking away markets from the soya farmers in Bolivia, from the agro-industrialists in Colombia.

I am convinced that it is important to import what we do not produce and export what we produce and that this would be a solution to the economic problem, the problem of employment.

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity, Ms president, to say that there are also other historical injustices, such as the criminalisation of the coca leaf. I want to say, this is a green coca leaf, it is not the white of cocaine, this coca leaf represents Andean culture, it is a coca leaf that represents the environment and the hope of our peoples.

It is not possible that the coca leaf is legal for Coca Cola and that the coca leaf is illegal for other medicinal purposes in our country, and in the whole world.

We want to say, that it is important that the United Nations recognise that with the help of North American universities, with European universities, we have scientifically demonstrated that the coca leaf does not damage human health.

It is very lamentable that due to customs, to bad customs, that the coca leaf is derailed into an illegal problem, we are conscious of that, that is why we say as producers of the coca leaf that there will not be free coca cultivation, but nor will there be zero coca.

The previously implemented policies, that had conditions imposed, talked of zero coca, zero coca is like talking of zero Quechuas, Aymaras, Mojenos, Chiquitanos in my country, this finished with our government, no matter how underdeveloped our country is, a country with economic problems which are a product of the looting of our natural resource wealth.

And we are now here to dignify ourselves, and we have begun to dignify our country, and within this process of dignifying I want to say, that the best proposal for the struggle against narco-trafficking has been voluntary reduction, agreed upon without deaths or injuries.

Happily I have heard the report from the United Nation, which recognises that this honest, responsible effort, in the struggle against narco-trafficking, has increased efficiency by 300% as opposed to confiscations which seize drugs,.

Nevertheless, yesterday I heard a report from the government of the United States, it says, that they do not accept the cultivation of coca, and that they are putting conditions on it that modify our norms.

I want to say with great respect to the government of the United States, we are not going to change anything, we don’t need blackmail and threats, the so-called certification or decertification in the fight against narco-trafficking is simply an instrument of recolonialisation or colonialisation of the Andean countries, that is unacceptable, that can not be permitted.

I want to say to you that we have, and we need, an alliance to fight against narco-trafficking, but one that is real and effective, so that the war on drugs can not be used as an instrument, a pretext, for them to subjugate the countries of the Andean region, just like they invented preventative wars to intervene into some countries of the Middle East.

We need a real fight against narco-trafficking, and I call on the United Nations, I invite the government of the United States to make an agreement, an effective alliance to fight against narco-trafficking, so that the war on drugs is not used as a pretext to dominate us, or to humiliate us, or to try to establish military bases. In our country they use the pretext of the fight against narco-trafficking.

I take use of this opportunity to say that, within this process of change, we want justice, that justice be carried out is important for our peoples, but I feel that via the Constituent Assembly we are going to decolonise the law in order to nationalise justice, real justice.

That the people implicated in the violations of human rights, peoples threaten with military interventions, there will never be justice there, we are obliged as presidents, as head of states to dignify humanity by ending impunity.

In the previous governments in my country, they massacred people that struggle for their economic demands, for their natural resources, and it is not possible that perpetuators of genocide, corrupt criminals, escape in order to live in the United States, in a developed country such as United States.

I ask with a great deal of respect, expel these perpetuators of genocide, criminals, corrupt ones that come to live here, if they have nothing to do with it, why don’t they defend themselves in the Bolivian justice system.

I am obliged, as president, to demand that these authorities be tried in the Bolivian justice system, and I believe that no country, no head of state can protect, hid, delinquents, the perpetuators of genocide.

Hopefully with the help of the North American people, hopefully via international organisations, the people that have done so much economic damage, damage to human rights, will be tried, given that they have never respected human rights.

I have a recommendation for the permanent forum of the indigenous peoples, in front of the debates about the rights of indigenous peoples, in front of the debates about the rights of indigenous peoples that are in the subcommission of the rights of indigenous peoples in the United Nations in Geneva, in the Organisation of American States, I have information that this debate has reached this maximum instance of the United Nations.

I want to ask you in the name of the indigenous peoples of the world, especially of Abyalala, now called America, to urgently approve this declaration of the rights of indigenous peoples of the world, the right to self-determination, the right to live in community, collectively, the right to live in solidarity, in reciprocity, and fundamentally the right to live in brotherhood.

There are regions were communities live without private property, there is collective property, the indigenous peoples only want to live well, not better, to live better is to exploit, is to loot, to rob, but to live well is to live in brotherhood and that is why it is very important, president, that the United Nations urgently after the decade of the indigenous peoples, that this declaration of the rights of the indigenous peoples, the right to natural resources, the right to look after the environment, be approved.

Finally president, the indigenous peoples, the poor come especially from a culture of life and not a culture of war, and this millennium will really have to be to defend live, to save humanity and if we want to save humanity we have the obligation to save the planet. The indigenous peoples live in harmony with mother earth, and not only in reciprocity, in solidarity, with human beings.

We feel greatly that the politics of hegemonist competitions are destroying the planet. I feel that all countries, social forces, international organisms are important, let us begin to debate truthfully, in order to save the planet, to save humanity.

This new millennium, the millennium that we find ourselves in needs to be a millennium of life, not of war, a millennium of people and not of empire, a millennium of justice and equality and that any economic policy needs to be orientated towards ending, of at least lessening these so-called asymmetric differences between one country and another country, those social inequalities.

We are not trying to implement policies that allow the economic humiliation or economic looting; when they cannot loot according to the norms, they use troops.

I want to ask with great respect, that it is important to withdraw troops from Iraq if we want to respect human rights, it is important to withdraw economic policies that allow the concentration of capital in only a few hands.

And for this, I feel president, that these events should be historical in order to change the world and to change economic models, interventionalist policies. Above all else we want them to be times that allow us to defend and save humanity

Popular Armed Defense Called for in Bolivia

La Paz September 21 (Granma).-- The Bolivian government has urged small farmers to take up arms if necessary in defense of the ongoing process of change occurring in the country since Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president, took office in January of this year.

The government's move to recuperate the country's hydrocarbon reserves from foreign interests, new education and healthcare programs, an agrarian reform, and hopes that the currently convened Constituent Assembly will draft a new more inclusive constitution have been met with resistance from privileged sectors of society.

On Wednesday, acting President Alvaro Garcia addressed the need for the peasant population to be on guard when speaking in the town of Warisata during the commemoration of the third anniversary of the first six deaths of the killings ordered by former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to crack down on a social protest.

Garcia, who years back joined an armed indigenous group operating in the zone, said the rural population should be ready to defend the nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons.

The vice president said that if necessary, they will take up the fight 50 or 60 times until the oil companies, speculators and criminal politicians that have plundered the country pay attention.

The call comes amid stepped-up conflict and pressure by conservative, regional and other opposition forces demanding that the Constituent Assembly decisions be made by a two-thirds vote.

Divided Mexico - Part 1: The Bankers' Alliance Holds on to Power
by John W. Warnock
For a brief time the media in Canada and the United States gave some
coverage to the July 2 election in Mexico. There was a threat from the
social democratic left - the possibility that Andres Manual Lopez Obrador
(AMLO) might emerge as the next president. The U.S. government, concerned
about the spread of the new socialism across Latin America, settled back
when the Mexican establishment carried the day. Nevertheless, the election
produced a major shift to the left, angered the poor and disenfranchised,
and heightened social divisions and political resistance.

Mexico was ruled by a succession of generals until President Lazaro Cardenas
(1934-40) restructured the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). A
populist party, it included the trade unions, peasant organizations, a civic
alliance, and small business organizations. The PRI governed Mexico between
1929 and 2000 as a one-party state. Through the system known as
"Presidentialism," the PRI completely dominated. Elections were a farce as
the PRI won them all, legislatures rarely had any representation from other
parties, and the President appointed everyone, including his own successor.

In 1939 a group of right wing Catholics, business leaders and large land
owners formed the National Action Party (PAN) to defend the church, protect
private property rights, and to push for a government similar to Francisco
Franco's in Spain. They received strong support from the Mexican
Confederation of Employers (COPARMEX), whose slogan was "not class struggle
but class collaboration." The PAN provided token opposition to the PRI down
to the 1980s when it began to seriously contest local elections, demanding a
liberal democratic electoral regime.

Mexico has always been run by powerful wealthy families, foreign capital,
large landowners and the hierarchy of the Catholic church. The "bankers'
alliance," as they are known is Mexico, dominated the leadership and policy
of the PRI. It is commonly said that Mexico is run by 300 families.
Protected until the 1980s from competition from foreign firms, powerful
family groups have run the economy. In 2000 eight groups controlled around
70 percent of the stock on the Bolsa Mexicana de Valores. The most
influential organization has been the Mexican Council of Businessmen (CMHN),
37 of the richest men who in 1994 contributed $750 million to the PRI's
presidential campaign.

The first challenge to the bankers' alliance came in the 1988 presidential
election. When Carlos Salinas de Gortari was nominated to be the PRI
candidate, the moderate left wing caucus, the Democratic Current, left the
PRI and organized the National Democratic Front, an electoral alliance with
several small parties, the political left, and a broad range of popular and
community organizations, Mexico's "rainbow coalition." They supported
Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the former PRI governor of Michoacan, for President.
The 1988 election was the biggest fraud in Mexican history. With 60 percent
of the votes counted, and Cardenas with a good lead, the PRI-controlled
Federal Electoral Commission (CFE) shut down the vote count; ten days later
they proclaimed that Salinas had won by a narrow plurality. It was Mexican
politics as usual. Salinas and his successor, Ernesto Zedillo, pursued the
neoliberal agenda of big business and embraced NAFTA.

The PRI's control over the Mexican political system was broken in 2000.
Vicente Fox, the candidate for the PAN, was elected president with 43
percent of the vote to 36 percent for the PRI's candidate and only 17
percent for Cardenas, now running for the Party of the Democratic Revolution
(PRD). With the introduction of a modified system of proportional election,
the PRI lost control of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and
political pluralism emerged. But the bankers' alliance was not worried; Fox
was a businessmen and rancher, one of their own, and the PAN was solidly on
the political right.

The threat from the PRD

Lopez Obrador was elected as Head of Government of Mexico City in 2000.
AMLO, as he is known, was a history teacher from Tabasco, where he was an
active member of the PRI. In 1988 he joined the Democratic Current, left the
PRI, and backed Cardenas for president. In 1994 he ran for governor of
Tabasco for the PRD and lost in an election stolen by the PRI. He is known
for his strong support of the rights of indigenous peoples, his dedication
to fair elections and ending corruption, and a willingness to use civil
disobedience to confront injustice. As head of the government of Mexico City
he led a fight against crime, greatly reduced corruption, worked to help the
poor and introduced the first universal pension for seniors. When he left
office in 2005 public opinion polls reported he had an approval rating of
over 80 percent.

Other polls indicated that Mexicans wanted AMLO to be the next president.
While he is not a radical, he supported the broad coalition of peasant
organizations that asked for a renegotiation of NAFTA to exempt agriculture
and food. He advocates taxing corporations and the rich and using the
revenues to expand social programs in a fight against poverty and
inequality. Mexicans quickly became disillusioned with Vicente Fox and the
PAN, and in the mid term elections in 2003, only 40 percent bothered to

The bankers' alliance took up the challenge. The wealthy political elite in
the PRI began to work out a political agreement with the leadership of the
PAN. In 1989 the legislature had created the Federal Electoral Institute
(IFE), which earned the respect of the Mexican people for their commitment
to a clean electoral process. But this changed in November 2003 when the two
parties in the Chamber of Deputies appointed their allies to the nine-member
General Council. Nominations by the other parties to the Federal Judicial
Elections Tribunal (TEPJF), the highest electoral court, were also rejected.
The partisan nature of these two bodies was demonstrated in the 2006

In 2004 the PAN-PRI alliance stripped AMLO of his legislative immunity so
that he could be sued by a landowner for expropriating a piece of land to
build a road to a Mexico City hospital. This court action would have made
him ineligible to run for President. After a demonstration of over one
million supporters in Mexico City, President Fox abandoned the process.

Carlos Salinas, back in Mexico and deeply involved in building the PRI-PAN
alliance, helped to engineer a sting operation where several businessmen
made payments to two government officials in Mexico City to further their
construction projects. The transfer of cash was secretly filmed and then run
on television for months to demonstrate that the PRD was not free of
corruption. AMLO's support in the polls fell by 15 points.

The bankers' alliance directly entered the campaign. Aided by Dick Morris,
former adviser to Bill Clinton, they spent more than $19 million on
television ads; third party political advertisements are illegal under
Mexican law. The U.S. International Republican Institute, funded by the
National Endowment for Democracy, helped train PAN activists. Foreign
interference in an election is also a crime. PAN election spending far
exceeded the legal limits. President Fox spent six months campaigning for
Calderon, which is contrary to Mexican law. All these illegal activities
were recognized by the Federal Judicial Elections Tribunal, which concluded
that they did not have a significant effect on the outcome of the election.

Election results disputed

On July 2 around 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. The
results announced by IFE were as follows: Felipe Calderon, candidate for the
PAN, 36.38%; Lopez Obrador, 35.34% and Roberto Madrazo, the candidate of the
PRI, 21.57%. The margin of victory for Calderon was only 244,000 votes. No
major frauds were reported. However, many people went to the polls, found
they were not on the voters' list, were sent to special voting stations, and
found there were no ballots. This was especially the case in low income
areas where the PRD was strongest.

Going into the election, national polls indicated that AMLO had a lead of
around three percent. The two television networks, Televisa and TV Azteca,
did extensive exit polls which indicated that AMLO had won, but they did not
report the results. A large exit poll by the Instituto de Mercadotecnia y
Opinion showed AMLO had won, again not reported by the corporate media.
Academics who closely monitored the returns reported by IFE noted that
through most of the election night AMLO was ahead by a steady margin of
about three percent. Then, with around 70 percent of the vote counted, the
reports from the polls changed dramatically, with a five and then ten to one
margin going for Calderon up to the end. IFE officials claimed that this
discrepancy was due to the fact that rural votes came in last. But
Calderon's support was weakest in the rural areas. Shades of 1988.

Supporters of AMLO gathered by the hundreds of thousands in the zocalo of
Mexico City, demanding a complete recount. They camped there for weeks. A
poll by El Universal one of Mexico's major newspapers, revealed that 59
percent believe that there had been fraud. A poll in August found 48 percent
wanted a complete recount, while on 28 percent supported the announced
results. The New York Times and the Financial Times called for a recount in
order to establish the legitimacy of Calderon's apparent victory. But
President Fox, Calderon and the bankers alliance said "no!" They would ride
out the storm, as they did in 1988.

The PRD presented the Electoral Tribunal with 800 pages of documentation of
problems with the election. They challenged results in 72,000 of the 130,000
electoral districts, noting that there were major discrepancies between the
ballots delivered to polling stations, the votes counted at these stations,
and often between votes counted and numbers on the official voters' list. In
some areas the vote for Calderon exceeded the number on the voters' list.
They protested that officials at IFE had opened many of the sealed ballot
boxes after the election, which is against the law.

On August 5 the Electoral Tribunal dismissed the challenges from the PRD but
ordered a recount of 11,839 voting stations in 149 districts, covering
around 3.8 million voters. On August 28 they announced that they had
annulled ballot boxes which contained 237,000 votes, but insisted that this
had no effect on the outcome of the election. They refused to release any
details of the recount.

The PRD and its allies, the Workers Party (PT) and Convergencia, had
observers at all the recounts. They recorded the following from this sample:

* In 3,074 polling stations there were a total of 45,890 illegal votes,
above the number of recorded votes. This was primarily in PAN areas of

* in 4,368 polling stations a total of 80,392 ballots were missing.
If this sample was characteristic of the entire country, it would mean a
discrepancy of over 1.5 million votes, clearly enough to change the election

On September 5 the Federal Judicial Elections Tribunal finally declared
Calderon the winner of the election. The court noted the criticism of the
procedures on election day but argued that they did not have enough
information to conclude that this affected the election results. They
announced that the ballots would be burned, as in 1988, thus blocking an
independent recount requested by a group of academics and El Proceso news

But this is not 1988. Mass mobilizations have disrupted the political
establishment. More have been scheduled. A National Democratic Convention
was held in Mexico City on September 16, declaring AMLO the real president,
and appointing a commission to draft a plebiscite to call a new
constitutional convention.

The media focus on the presidency has obscured the fact that this election
has changed Mexican politics. The PRI was routed in the vote for president,
the elections for the legislature, and failed to carry a single state. The
PRD is now the second largest party in the legislature. If there had been a
run off vote for president, which is common in Latin America, AMLO would
have likely won, for the rank and file supporters of the PRI are peasants
and ordinary workers who hate the PAN. Even more than Fox, Calderon
represents the rich and powerful.

Political conflict is on the rise across Mexico. Miners are striking. A
national strike was held in February. Police killed two striking
steelworkers in Michoacan. Security police viciously attacked street venders
in the State of Mexico. Striking teachers and their supporters occupy the
centre of Oaxaca City, demanding the resignation of the Governor and have
created an alternate government. Police and military are again stepping up
the harassment of peasants in Chiapas. The general political trend across
Latin America has moved up to the Rio Grande.

John W. Warnock is a Regina political economist and author of The Other
Mexico: The North American Triangle Completed. He was a member of the
Canadian team of observers for the 1994 and 1997 Mexican federal elections.
In February 2006 he did research on the maquiladora zone industries in
Matamoros, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.

Mexico Part 2: Poverty, Inequality and NAFTA

September 27, 2006

There was very little coverage of the Mexican election in the North American
media this past July. But editorial opinion after the results were reported
was uniform: Andres Manual Lopez Obrador and the Party of the Democratic
Revolution (PRD) should shut up, accept their defeat and wait until the next
election. Nevertheless, a few newspapers did mention that the
president-elect Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) would
have a difficult time dealing with a "deeply divided country" where around
50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Wasn't the North American Free Trade Agreement supposed to fix this problem?
According to the World Bank, 50 percent of the population is living in
poverty and around one-fifth are living in "extreme poverty," with an income
of less than one U.S. dollar per day. This World Bank standard may be
relevant to some countries in Africa, but it is ridiculous to apply it to
Mexico where no one can survive on one dollar a day.

In 2002 the Mexican government introduced its own definition of poverty. It
distinguishes between rural and urban poverty. The three classification are
as follows, converted from Mexican pesos to U.S. dollars:

(1) Food-based poverty. Income is not enough to cover basic food expenses.
This includes 20 percent of the population. Individual income is $50 per
month in rural areas and $67 per month in urban areas.

(2) Capabilities poverty. Income is not enough to cover basic food, health,
and education. This includes 27 percent of the population. Individual income
is $60 per month in rural areas and $80 per month in urban areas.

(3) Basic needs poverty. Income is not enough to cover basic food, health,
education, clothing, housing and public transportation. This includes 50
percent of the population. Individual income is $95 per month in rural areas
and $137 in urban areas.

Poverty levels in Mexico City

The average household in Mexico has five members. In urban areas like Mexico
City, this standard family would be expected to survive on $685 per month.
This is the official basic needs poverty line.

These government classifications have been criticized by independent
scholars who put poverty levels considerably higher. For example, since 1978
the Centre for Multidisciplinary Analysis (CAM) of the Faculty of Economics
at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has been collecting
statistics on what is actually required to live in Mexico City. Their basic
needs basket is very limited: 35 items which includes food, toiletries,
public transportation, electricity, and gas for cooking. It excludes rent,
education, health, clothing, recreation and culture. While the government's
urban basic needs poverty level was set at $4.57 per day per person in 2002,
the actual costs of the CAM basket of goods alone was $28.82 per day.

In 2002 the minimum wage in the urban areas like Mexico City was $4.87 per
day. Because of inflation and devaluation of the Mexican peso in relation to
the U.S. dollar, between 1982 and 2002 the real value of the minimum wage
had fallen by 82 percent. During the presidency of Vicente Fox (2000-6) it
declined by 22 percent.

A study by Patricia Munoz of the Faculty of Economics at UNAM found that
"the minimum wage that entered into force on January 1, 2006 is only enough
to obtain 16 percent of what a worker could buy two decades ago with the
same salary." The minimum wage in Mexico "has suffered the largest, most
serious and drastic deterioration in all of Latin America."

Official government statistics report that 10.78 million Mexicans work for
the minimum wage or less, which is around 24 percent of those who have some
kind of employment. Forty one percent of workers earn the equivalent of two
minimum wages or less.

Finding a job

The average family in Mexico needs a number of sources of income to survive.
But the opportunities for employment are limited. Of the population of 106
million, around 44 million are considered to be actively involved in the
labour market. Of these, only around 20 million are in jobs that pay a wage
or a salary, and in 2004 only 45 percent of these workers were covered by
the contributory social insurance system.

According to government calculations, during the years of the presidency of
Vicente Fox, around 1.4 million workers entered the labour force each year.
However, the economy only created on average 524,000 new jobs per year over
this period. Thus 68 percent of new workers have had to survive in the
"informal economy," remain unemployed and dependent on their families, or
have fled to the United States. Around 1.3 million people work in the

During the period between 1961 and 1980 the average per capita real economic
growth in Mexico was 3.4 percent, higher than in either the United States or
Canada. The rate of inflation was very low, and the industrial sector of the
economy grew. So did formal employment and wages. At the time, the World
Bank and other institution described this as Mexico's "economic miracle."

But this changed with the world recession of the early 1980s and the
collapse of the price of oil. The Reagan-Thatcher free market and free trade
model was forced on Mexico. Between 1981 and 1990 the average real rate of
economic growth fell to -0.3 percent and rose only to 1.9 percent between

While other middle income countries, like Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and
Singapore have been steadily narrowing the gap between their wages and those
of the United states, this has not been true of Mexico. For example, in 1975
manufacturing wages in Mexico were 23 percent of those in the United States;
this fell to 11.5 percent in 2001.

A study by Enrique Dussel Peters of the Faculty of Economics at UNAM found
that between 1988 and 2001 those industries that were most affected by the
trade liberalization policies represented by NAFTA showed a downward trend
in real wages but had the highest rate of productivity increases. Employers
in the export industries were getting much more out of their workers while
paying them less in wages and benefits.

Nevertheless, with the internationalization of production, and the open
economy, the major companies are shifting work out of Mexico. For example,
the average wage for electronics workers in Guadalajara in 2004 was $US1.80
per hour; in Shenzhen, one of the high wage areas in China, it was $US0.77
per hour. Workers in the maquiladora factories in the border zones in Mexico
complain that the shift in production to Asia and Central America has led to
a downward pressure on wages during the Fox presidency.

Persistence of inequality

Official government figures show that between 1963 and 1985 inequality
steadily declined. With the onset of the "lost decade" of the economy and
the shift to the policies of neoliberalism, inequality again began to
worsen. Some improvement has been seen since this low point. But in 2005 the
top 10 percent of households averaged an income of $US4,261 per month; the
bottom 10 percent of households averaged US$166 per month.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean points out
that Mexico, a middle income country, "competes with other Latin American
countries for the first places on economic, social and gender inequality."
Very powerful business organizations preside over a hierarchical class and
social system. Mexico is also described as a "pigmentocracy," for those
families at the top stress their "whiteness" and Spanish blood while those
at the bottom of the social hierarchy are the dark skinned indigenous
peoples, who are also the poorest.

The Mexican government has introduced a new anti-poverty program,
Progresa-Oportunidades, which is targeted to those living in extreme
poverty. With a budget of $2.8 billion, it provides financial support for
school supplies, expanded health services, and a payment of around $US15 per
month to women for the purchase of food. By 2005 it provided cash subsidies
to around five million families, or 24 percent of the total population. The
program has faltered under President Fox.

One of the most serious obstacles to combating poverty is the fact that all
Mexican governments have hesitated to impose taxes on corporations, wealth
and those in higher income brackets. Between 1988 and 2002 social
expenditures dropped as a percentage of gross domestic product from 11
percent to two percent. Government spending in general accounts for less
than 20 percent of Mexico's gross domestic production, compared to over 40
percent in the developed countries.

The most important contribution to the reduction of poverty in Mexico is the
remittance of earnings from family members working in the United States. The
Mexican government reports that there are nine million Mexicans living and
working in the USA; this increased by 2.5 million during the presidency of
Vicente Fox. They are now remitting over $20 billion annually, most
important to low income families.

Felipe Calderon has proclaimed that he will make the reduction of poverty
and inequality the primary aim of his new government. Mexicans do not expect
much to change. The structure of the economy will not change. The general
policy shift away from serving the domestic market and emphasizing exports
has led to lower rates of economic growth, relatively lower wages, the
creation of few jobs, and increased inequality. Across Latin American
similar trends have promoted the shift to the political left. Mexico is no

John W. Warnock is a Regina political economist and author of The Other
Mexico: The North American Triangle Completed. He was a member of the
Canadian team of observers for the 1994 and 1997 Mexican federal elections.
In February 2006 he did research on the maquiladora zone industries in
Matamoros, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.

Latin America Solidarity Committee LAC blogg

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