Monday, March 12, 2007

Latin America Solidarity News 12th March 2007

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Events and Resources

Successful showing of Salud!

A great response from viewers at our screenings of Salud! at the Film Archive last week.
"Salud" is top value, with a really engaging style, excellent photography and deals with the
fundamental issues of access to primary health care, and the sort of outcomes that can you
get when health care is community orientated rather than patient specific.

If I was in my early 20s, I guess I would be taking the next boat to Cuba to
enrol in their international medical college.

Three copies have been purchased, one will go to Department of Spanish and
Latin American Studies Centre, Auckland Univ, another to Global Education Centre, and another to the Otago Medical School.

Please spread the word around that it is available. Would be a great
appetiser for the upcoming District Health Board elections.

The DVD can be borrowed from the Global Education Centre

Salud! Cuba/USA, 2006, Exempt, 93 minutes
Directed and produced by Academy Award nominee Connie Field, ,em>Salud! is a timely examination of human values and the health issues that affect us all. Salud! documents how Cuba not only overcomes its lack of resources to provide universal health care for its citizens but also helps other developing nations do the same.

Cuba Health Reports

Published online by the editors of MEDICC Review journal, Cuba Health Reports (CHR) offers you health and medical news from Cuba with the same standard of reliable, evidence-based analysis.

CHR is the premier destination if you want to keep up with Cuban health and medicine—including initiatives to tackle domestic health problems, updates on the country's global health cooperation and key research developments.

A few of the articles in this issue:

§ Cuba's Infant Mortality Rate Declines, Again

§ Overdue: Hospital Nacional Completely Overhauled

§ Julian Bond, NAACP, Visits US Students at Latin American Medical School

§ Studying Medicine in Cuba: Impressions of a First Year Student

Poverty, Development and Human Rights in Central America

Sally O’Neill, Director of Trocaire Central America, gave a fascinating talk on key development and human rights issues facing the peoples of Central America on 7th March.

Trocaire Central America is an organisation with over 25 years experience working alongside local development organizations in Central America around the themes of human rights and peace building (indigenous rights, gender and women’s empowerment), sustainable rural livelihoods, HIV-AIDS and civil society building. Trocaire Central America is a long term partner of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand. Contact:

Venezuela Documentary in the making
From: Julia Capon

I have just been in Venezuela over election time with the Australian
Solidarity brigade (with 8 other Kiwis - so really an Australian/NZ
brigade!) and were impressed by what we saw. My partner Ricardo and
are also currently in the process of making a documentary on
Venezuela..and applying for funding to get it out there - so shouldn't
be too long! We had some amazing interviews with Eva Golinger, Noam Chomsky, Michael Lebowitz, Greg Wilpert and Michael Fox from Venezuela Analysis to name a few and also went to the final Chavez rally and press conference and to be fair and balanced talked to the oppositon and went to their rally. We really looking forward to spreading the word about the

Bolivarian Revolution in NZ!

We thought you may be interested in looking at our documentary preview for "Venezuela's Revolutionary Tide" (working title) to see a little bit of what we experienced! It is on youtube so follow this link to watch it Please feel free to forward this to anyone you feel may be interested as we want as many people as possible to see this and really want to publisice it! Or if you want we can supply you with the code to embed it in any websites related to Venezuela if your that keen! We are just in the process of applying for funding which is proving quite tricky from NZ based funding sources..but hopefully it won't be too long until we are able to show you the whole thing! Can't wait!

When we were in Venezuela we discussed setting up a solidarity group or a latin american solidarity group - but seems that we have already been beaten to it!

If you too want to be a "revolutionary tourist'' and ``join the wave of
backpackers, artists, academics and politicians on a mission to
discover if Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, really is forging a
radical alternative to neo-liberalism and capitalism" check out the
three solidarity brigades that the Australia Venezuela Solidarity
Network are organising this year including the first one for May Day also

.....and Venezuela Bolivariana Tours.
If your organization's members or friends are thinking of travelling to Venezuela on a tour; we are at your service. We are political activists who have seen a need to help people visit Venezuela in a safe and instructional environment. Our tours show and educate the international community about the Bolivarian revolution and the accomplishments it has achieved. People who travel on our tours will visit co-ops, factories, clinics, schools, farms, etc. They will meet with politicians, workers, community activists, doctors, teachers, etc. They will travel to various cities and states within Venezuela.

All proceeds from our tours go towards building an international solidarity and friendship centre within Venezuela. When the centre is completed it will accommodate, feed, translate for, transport and guide international visitors to places where they can learn about the revolution: the process and the people. The idea of the project is to build a self sufficient and sustainable community around it. This means that there will not only be services to visitors, but the Venezuelan community around it will benefit from, have input into, and form part of the centre. The plan of the centre is to bring the international solidarity movement together to make it united, stronger and more effective.

May Day Global Solidarity School in Cuba

We extend a warm invitation to register for the historic first annual Global Solidarity School taking place in Havana Cuba from April 28 to May 12 2007. In the tradition of the World Social Forums, union education schools and community organizing, we are combining these elements to create a school for building social change -- bringing together students seeking to build a better world.

As a student at the Global Solidarity School, you will meet with international counterparts who care about the well being of our planet and who seek to create progressive social changes necessary to ensure social and environmental sustainability. Our classes allow you to examine global issues and strategies for change in a creative and friendly environment. Recognized activist educators and academics together with the University of Havana's top foreign language staff and cultural experts lead Global Solidarity School classes. for details.

Peña Cultural Latina
Films, live music, food and conversation 128 Abel-Smith St, Wellington.
To assist in planning contact:

"La pesadilla azul" ("Blue Nightmare" in Spanish only)
Testimonies of people arrested by order of Ulises Ruiz during one of the most violent
interventions of the Federal Police on Nov. 25, 2006 in Oaxaca, Mexico
Please view at:

MAL DE OJO TV is an independent media collective in Oaxaca covering the
human rights violations in Oaxaca since June 2006.


President Bush's Trip to Latin America is All About Denial

"State of Denial" is the title of Bob Woodward's famous book on the Bush
team's road to disaster in Iraq, but it would have served just as well
for a description of their Latin America policy. This week President
Bush heads South for a seven-day, five country, trip to Latin America to
see if he can counter the populist political tide that has brought left
governments to about half the population of the region.

Carrying vague promises of a joint effort on ethanol production - but no
offer to lower tariffs protecting the US market - President Bush hopes
to entice Brazil into taking his side against his nemesis, President
Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. This is a fantasy.

President Lula da Silva of Brazil made a point of visiting Venezuela
for his first foreign trip after being re-elected last October. There,
he presided over the dedication of a $1.2 billion bridge over the
Orinoco river, financed by the Brazilian government, while he lavished
praise on Chavez and gave the popular Venezuelan president an added
boost in his own re-election campaign.

The Bush Administration's policy of trying to isolate Venezuela from its
neighbors has only succeeded in isolating Washington. Last week
President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, speaking in Caracas, flatly
rejected the notion that Argentina or Brazil should "contain President
Chavez," whom he called "a brother and a friend." In another
thinly-veiled swipe at Washington, Kirchner said: "It cannot be that it
bothers anyone that our nations become integrated." At the same time he
announced that Venezuela and Argentina would jointly issue a "Bond of
the South" for $1.5 billion.

If Washington is in denial about the political reality of Latin America,
it is even more in denial about the economics. For twenty-five years our
government has pushed a series of reforms throughout the region: tighter
fiscal and monetary policies, more independent central banks,
indiscriminate opening to international trade and investment,
privatization of public enterprises, and the abandonment of economic
development strategies and industrial policies. The Bush team thinks
that these reforms, known as "neoliberalism" in Latin America, were just
the right formula to stimulate economic growth.

In fact, Latin America's economic growth over the last 25 years has been
a disaster - the worst long-term growth failure in more than a hundred
years. From 1980-2000 GDP per person grew by only 9 percent, and another
4 percent for 2000-2005. Compare this to 82 percent for just the two
decades from 1960-1980, and it is easy to see why candidates promising
new economic policies have been elected (and some re-elected) in
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
They also came close to winning in Mexico, Peru, and Costa Rica.

The left governments that have introduced new economic policies have
done pretty well: Argentina has grown by a phenomenal 8.6 percent
annually for nearly five years, pulling more than 8 million people out
of poverty in a country of 36 million. Bolivia has increased government
revenue from hydrocarbons by about 6.7 percent of GDP, an amount that
would equal $900 billion in the United States, and is using the
additional revenue to help its majority poor. Venezuela is also using
the government's increased take of oil production to provide health
care, education, and subsidized food for the poor. All of these
governments have succeeded by implementing policies that Washington

President Bush will get a good reception from the right-wing governments
he is visiting: his close allies in Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala.
Colombia is in the midst of a huge national scandal over the
responsibility of government officials for mass murder and
assassinations of political opponents. More trade unionists are killed
in Colombia each year than in the rest of the world combined. Guatemala
is another right-wing ally with a terrible human rights record: two
weeks ago, three Central American parlimentarians were murdered by a
Guatemalan police death squad. All three governments have been linked to
narco-trafficking, but President Bush will likely praise them for their
cooperation in the war on drugs.

It's all about denial. The political and economic changes sweeping Latin
America are a serious break with the failed policies of the past.
Washington's influence has collapsed, and is not likely to recover.

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

Stephen Lendman: Ecuador's President Embraces Bolivarianism :
Correa took office January 15 in a country of 13 million, over 70% of whom live in poverty. They voted for a man promising social democratic change and the same kinds of benefits Venezuelans now have under Hugo Chavez

Venezuela's growing influence in Bolivia raises U.S. concerns:
Since Morales became president little more than a year ago, Venezuela has quickly come to rival the United States as Bolivia's main patron. It has provided assistance for the army, cattle ranches, soybean cultivation, microfinance projects, urban sanitation companies and the oil industry.

Protests Mount Against Mining Giant: -
Dangerous levels of lead and arsenic have been found in the blood of Honduran villagers living downstream from a controversial gold and silver mine owned by Canada's Goldcorp Inc., the world's third largest gold mining firm.

Chavez signs decree to nationalize foreign oil companies:
The decree allows Venezuela's state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, (PDVSA) to take a 60 per cent stake on May 1 in four projects which process crude oil into 600,000 barrels of synthetic oil a day in the country's eastern Orinoco River basin.

In Uruguay, Bush Finds a Friendly Ear

NY TIMES-Published: March 11, 2007
ESTANCIA ANCHORENA, Uruguay, March 10 — Of all of the Latin American nations President Bush is visiting this week, this one is the smallest, with a population that is roughly half that of New York City.
But it has two things that provide a particular draw: a left-leaning president in the area who is still willing to buck the anti-American push of regional strongmen like President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and one who has a sprawling presidential retreat that is a cross between Camp David and Mr. Bush’s Texas ranch.
In a news briefing that followed the first of two meetings at that retreat, a pastoral setting with goats, cows and horses near the border with Argentina, Mr. Bush and President Tabaré Vázquez avoided their most contentious issues: Uruguay’s objection to United States trade quotas, and what has to be displeasure at the White House with Uruguay’s opposition to the Iraq war.
Mr. Bush renewed his pledge to create an overhaul of United States immigration laws that would include a guest worker program — a prospect that continues to languish in Congress but will certainly come up again on the trip. “I expressed to him that it is my interest to get a comprehensive immigration bill out of the United States Congress as soon as possible,” he said.
And Dr. Vázquez stuck to friendly, broad terms, recalling a visit to Uruguay by Mr. Bush’s father in 1990, when the doctor was the mayor of Montevideo, the nation’s capital.
Most important, officials said, was to use the visit to raise up Dr. Vázquez, still a part-time oncologist, as an example of what Dan Fisk, the top Western hemisphere specialist on the National Security Council, on Friday called “a country that is making the right policy choices.”
Last month, the United States and Uruguay signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to strengthen economic and trade ties without addressing the thorny issues of tariffs and subsidies. But Mr. Chávez has opposed the framework and is trying to push the region’s Mercosur trade alliance toward a stronger anti-America political stance.
Asked at the Saturday briefing about his position of juggling his country’s expanding relations with the United States and its membership in Mercosur, Dr. Vázquez said he was “strongly in favor of the regional process; we are where we are, and we don’t want to leave this place.” Though the trade alliance opposes individual bilateral deals by its members, he said, “Mercosur should be able to integrate to other blocs, other countries in the world.”
Neither he nor Mr. Bush mentioned Mr. Chávez, who was just across the Río de la Plata in Buenos Aires, having staged a demonstration against Mr. Bush on Friday night.
In fact, when Mr. Bush was asked what he thought of Mr. Chávez’s taunts, the president, who has not even spoken Mr. Chávez’s name, did not answer the question directly, saying, “The trip is a statement of a desire to work together with people in our neighborhood.” If he referred to Mr. Chávez’s bombast at all, it was by emphasizing that “I would call our diplomacy quiet and effective diplomacy.”
At his rally in Buenos Aires on Friday night, Mr. Chávez mocked everything from Mr. Bush’s poll ratings to his attempts to reach out in the region, and he said, “Gringo, go home.”
Afterward, Mr. Bush’s aides complained about the attention the news media were giving to Mr. Chávez, whose reported influence in the region they said was overblown and resented by his neighbors.
But even as Dr. Vázquez has made a show of friendship with Mr. Bush, as he did Saturday, he has also seemed to send signals to leftists like Mr. Chávez and others in the region that he has his own issues with American power.
In remarks this month in which he also spoke about Mr. Bush’s coming visit, Dr. Vázquez declared his was an “anti-imperialist” government, sharing the language of Mr. Chávez, who calls the United States an imperialist power.
When a group of Latin American journalists asked about that comment preceding the trip, Mr. Bush said last Tuesday, “I would hope he would define my government as pro-freedom.”
But officials here with Dr. Vázquez said he was not referring to the United States specifically, and was speaking in global terms. If anything, Uruguay seems very much to be swinging the United States’ way more than Mr. Chávez’s, providing important symbolism — despite Uruguay’s tiny size — for Mr. Bush this week before he moves on to a leg of his trip with other friendly nations: Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
And in a potential salve to the television images of anti-American protests even in Montevideo, Mr. Bush and Dr. Vázquez had a lunch of barbecue beef and took a boat ride together.

Bush Heads to Colombia as Scandal Taints Key Alliance
NY TIMES-Published: March 11, 2007
BOGOTÁ, Colombia, March 10 — The Bush administration has no closer ally in South America than Colombia, the recipient of more than $4 billion in American aid this decade to combat drug trafficking and guerrilla insurgencies. But a widening scandal tying paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers to close supporters of President Álvaro Uribe is clouding President Bush’s brief visit here on Sunday.
Since the scandal worsened in recent weeks, Democrats in the United States Congress have increased their scrutiny of two important measures before them: a broad trade agreement with Colombia that has already been signed by Mr. Bush and Mr. Uribe, and a request from the administration for a new $3.9 billion aid package for the country.
Claims of human rights abuses by political allies of Mr. Uribe, including the use of information from the executive branch’s intelligence service to assassinate union organizers and university professors, have already resulted in the arrest of Jorge Noguera, a former chief of Colombia’s secret police who was awarded that job after working on the president’s campaign.
“Uribe has certainly been considered a bright light here in the United States, but at some point you have to ask: what are these people doing?” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the Senate panel that oversees aid to Colombia, said in a telephone interview from Washington. “It’s time to take a pause and look at what we’ve done,” he said, referring to the effectiveness of aid to Colombia.
Senior government officials here say concern over the scandal should not distract legislators in the United States from strides by Mr. Uribe since his presidency began in 2002. Mr. Uribe, an Oxford-educated lawyer, remains highly popular, with a 72 percent approval rating. Many Colombians, particularly in cities like Bogotá and Medellín, have welcomed a break with the chaotic years early in the decade when violence by guerrillas and paramilitaries was more widespread.
“This country was going to be Sudan, and we’ve turned a corner in a dramatic way,” Vice President Francisco Santos said in an interview, referring to fears at one point that Colombia, destabilized by an internal war, could become a failed state.
He pointed to accomplishments like economic growth expected to surpass 6 percent this year, a reduction in violent crime rates in large cities, and a process demobilizing about 30,000 paramilitary combatants.
Mr. Santos expressed gratitude for American help with efforts to end Colombia’s internal war, which has dragged on for more than four decades, displacing three million people.
Still, Mr. Santos turned on its head a statement by Winston Churchill about Americans always doing the right thing after exhausting all the alternatives by saying the United States had made “all the right decisions” in relation to Colombia. “If the Congress doesn’t approve the free trade agreement, the message is that being a friend of the United States doesn’t pay,” Mr. Santos said.
Supporters of Mr. Uribe say ties between paramilitary death squads and political supporters of the president are coming to light because of the resilience of Colombia’s political institutions, particularly the Supreme Court, which has been investigating the connections.
The court’s diligence despite death threats to its members has resulted in startling actions like an arrest warrant issued this month for Álvaro Araújo Noguera, a regional political boss implicated in the kidnapping of a member of a rival political family. Mr. Araújo, the father of Mr. Uribe’s former foreign minister, María Consuelo Araújo, remains at large.
“It is not our concern,” said Alfredo Gómez Quintero, the magistrate at the Supreme Court leading the investigation, when asked in an interview how the revelations might affect American aid to Colombia. “We know the eyes of the world are upon us. Our only job is to arrive at the truth.”
Beyond the paramilitary scandal ensnaring members of Mr. Uribe’s government and at least eight members of his coalition in Congress, human rights organizations are calling attention to the killings of trade union officials in the past six years. And there are claims of abuses involving American companies like the Drummond Company, a coal producer based in Birmingham, Ala.
A judge in Alabama this week allowed a civil lawsuit against Drummond to go forward in which the company is accused of allowing paramilitary gunmen to kill three union leaders at its operations in northern Colombia.
Drummond has repeatedly denied having a role in the killings, which have nonetheless generated skepticism over tightening trade relations with Colombia without safeguarding the rights of the working poor.
“Our aid should be more focused on giving Colombian prosecutors the resources to do their job,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat who visited Colombia this month.
Here in Bogotá, officials point to Mr. Bush’s visit, the first by an American president to the capital since Ronald Reagan in 1982, as evidence that the security situation has improved. Certainly the scrubbed prosperity of parts of Bogotá, its hotels bulging with foreign business executives and even the occasional tourist, contrasts with the swaths of territory still controlled by leftist-inspired guerrilla organizations.
But Mr. Bush’s visit has also drawn attention to the fact that Colombia, despite being the largest recipient of American aid outside the Middle East and Afghanistan, remains the world’s largest producer of cocaine.
The recent emergence of shadowy new paramilitary organizations with an intense focus on the cocaine trade illustrates the hydra-headed nature of Colombia’s traffickers, political analysts here say.
Mr. Santos, the vice president, said the supply of Colombian cocaine to the United States would be even greater without American antinarcotics aid. Mr. Bush is expected to stand by Mr. Uribe at a time when explicit allies in the region remain scarce.
The fragile stability in Colombia’s largest cities and the slow-burning war in its countryside came into focus in the days before Mr. Bush’s arrival, after Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro, the country’s police commander, said officials had monitored communications by guerrillas about plans for sabotage and attacks to coincide with the visit.
More than 7,000 police officers have been assigned to protect Mr. Bush.

Half Million of Latin Americans Recover Vision in Cuba

Havana, Feb 10, 2007 (Prensa Latina) Over half a million of Latin Americans recovered their vision thanks to an ophthalmologic program Operacion Milagros developed between Cuba and Venezuela since 2004.

Among those receiving the benefits there are 306 thousand Venezuelans and 100 thousand Cubans, expressed the Island Deputy Foreign Minister Yiliam Jimenez to the full session of the 9 International Meeting on Globalization and Development Problems.

According to the report of the National Information Agency Jimenez described the large cooperation program the Cuban Revolution has in education, health and other spheres with the so-called Third World, without expecting anything in return.

He also emphasized that in the late seven years of collaboration the medical groups have made over 304 million of medical consultations in 69 countries.

Meanwhile they safe lives of nearly 600 thousand lives, 5.6 over those that were lost in the Central American catastrophe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Indonesia, he said.

Cuban doctors have also operated over 2 million 100 thousand patients.

He also noted that as part of the cooperation of Cuba with other countries over 28 young people from 120 States are studying in universities, most of them doing medicine.

Venezuela Orinoco May Top World Oil

Caracas, Feb 21, 2007 (Prensa Latina) The Orinoco oil zone, a key player in Venezuela s energy strategy, has the potential of becoming one of the world s largest oil reserves.

Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., with the State as major share holder, runs Magna Reserva Project within the 2005-2030 Siembra Petrolera Project to gauge and confirm its estimated 235 billion barrel potential.

PDVSA expects 15.3 billion dollar investments between 2006 and 2012 from partners in Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran, India, Malaysia, Russia, Spain, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Such hopes also involve four heavy oil refining ventures with US transnationals Exxon Mobil, Conoco Phillips, Chevron Texaco and British Petroleum, Total (France) and Statoil (Norway).

If such potentials are confirmed Orinoco would stand as a pillar of Venezuela s industrial, social, economic, technological and domestic development.


On Feb. 26 the Center for Economic and Political Investigations
of Community Action (CIEPAC), a non-governmental organization
based in San Cristobal de las Casas in the southeastern Mexican
state of Chiapas, received a note reading: "Enjoy your last day.
We will kill you I am looking for you and now we have found you."
This followed a series of incidents of surveillance and
harassment directed at CIEPAC's members over several months. The
organization is asking "national and international organized
groups in solidarity [to] maintain your vigilance in anticipation
of events that might occur shortly, continue your solidarity with
social movements in Mexico, and denounce the continuous
violations to human rights that are affecting civil society in
this country." [CIEPAC bulletin 2/26/07]


In connection with the planned visit of President George W. Bush to
Colombia, Senator Jorge Robledo, spokesperson for the Polo Democrático
Alternativo (PDA), wanted answers to the following questions: "Are the State
Department and the US Embassy in Colombia aware of what has happened in
terms of paramilitary activities and "para-politicking" in Colombia over the
last twenty years? Do they know that nearly one hundred political leaders
close to President Uribe are jailed, fugitives from the law, and named or
implicated because of their relations with paramilitary organizations? Do
they know that already nine members of the Colombian Congress, all close
friends of the Uribe administration, have been ordered to jail by the
Colombian Supreme Court because of their involvement? Are the State
Department and the US Embassy aware that in Colombia people speak
increasingly of "para-Uribismo," not merely "para-politicking"? Was there no
connection between US policies and the formation of these criminal
organizations and activities?"

Senator Robledo formulated these questions after sources close to the
administration of President Uribe touted the forthcoming March 11 visit of
George W. Bush to Colombia. These sources portrayed the visit as an explicit
backing by the White House of Colombia's President, even with respect to the
para-politicking scandal.

Senator Robledo reminded us that, under Plan Colombia, the military presence
of the United States increased to the tune of four billion dollars. The US
presence includes well-known robust operations by numerous agents of the
CIA, the DEA, the FBI, regular US military as well as mercenary forces. In
that regard Robledo cited comments by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy who said
that "the Colombian government is not simply a victim of their corrupt
influences." Leahy further stated that the Colombian government "allowed the
flourishing of paramilitary groups, sometimes colluding with those groups,
other times fostering their activities." (El Tiempo, March 4, 2007)

Senator Robledo emphasized that the truth about paramilitary and
para-political activities must be addressed for peace to be achieved in

Senator Jorge Robledo, Official Spokesperson, Polo Democrático Alternativo (PDA)