Sunday, March 18, 2007

Latin America Solidarity News March 18th 2007

Events and Resources

The tale of Mundo, Daniel, the co-pilot, the duck, the mouse and the pig: Observing the 2006 Nicaraguan elections

Christchurch Tuesday 20 March, 12noon, Jobberns room, level 4, Geography building, University of Canterbury Geography Departmental Seminar by Julie Cupples

Last year Julie Cupples worked as an international election observer with the Carter Center for the 2006 Nicaraguan elections which saw Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Front for National Liberation returned to power. This talk will talk about some of the political complexities of the electoral process from the point of view of an observer.
Contact: to organise a meeting in your centre.
Also visit youtube at

Chance to hear Cuban ICAP (Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples) visitors:
Buenaventura Reyes Acosta, Vice-president of ICAP and
Alicia Elvira Corredera Morales, Director of Asia-Pacific Division, ICAP
National Contact: Mike Treen DD - 64 9 845 4027; Mobile - 0295254744

Wellington meeting Tuesday April 17th:
Public meeting Havana Bar, 32a Wigan Street, 7.30pm.
Presentation and discussion followed by social.

Update on Oaxaca and report back from Central America
Hear Julie Webb-Pullman 13th April 6pm VTBD
Presentation of Commission report on Human Rights in Oaxaca (Mexico)

LAC AGM Thursday 26th April 6pm
Planning for new year! VTBD.

Habana Blues
World Cinema Showcase film festival is featuring a Cuban film - Habana Blues - in this year’s festival.
A captivating love letter to life on the ‘crazy isle’ of Cuba, Habana Blues follows a group of musicians struggling to make the big time. If that sounds like Buena Vista Social Club: the Return, be aware this is fiction – these young stallions play a vibrant hybrid of soul and rock, and their goal in life is to leave behind the politics of their impoverished island. Ruy and Tito are the Mick and Keith of the band who spend their days flogging everything from cigars to sombreros out of the back of Tito’s delicious red ‘52 Chevy. When their long-awaited break arrives in the guise of Spanish record producer Marta, their lives are thrown into turmoil by the tantalising prospect of a one-way ticket to Spain. For once they’ve left Cuba, they can never return.

World Cinema Showcase - Auckland - March 15 - April 4, 2007
World Cinema Showcase - Wellington - March 29 - April 11. 2007
World Cinema Showcase - Christchurch - April 12 - 25, 2007
World Cinema Showcase - Dunedin - April 19 - May 5, 2007


Chiquita admits to working with Colombian terrorist group
CBC News
The Chiquita banana company admitted to doing business with a Colombian terrorist organization on Wednesday and agreed to pay a $25 million US fine.
The Cincinnati-based banana company worked out the fine with U.S. federal prosecutors, who accused Chiquita of paying $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, a right-wing organization also known as AUC.
Chiquita Brands International said the payments were made to ensure the safety of its employees, who work on farms in volatile parts of Colombia, where leftist militants frequently clash with right-wing paramilitaries. AUC promised to keep Chiquita's workers safe in exchange for money, Chiquita said.
The United States designated the AUC a terrorist organization in September 2001. The AUC is alleged to be responsible for some of the worst massacres in Colombia in recent years. The group is also accused of running much of the country's cocaine trade.
"The payments made by [Chiquita] were always motivated by our good faith concern for the safety of our employees," Fernando Aguirre, Chiquita's CEO, said in a statement Wednesday.
Details of the fine and settlement agreement were not released Wednesday, but Aguirre said the company has money set aside to pay the $25-million fine.
The U.S. Justice Department launched a lengthy investigation into Chiquita's financial dealings with AUC several years ago. In April 2003, Chiquita officials and lawyers admitted to prosecutors they had been paying AUC, but still continued to hand money over to the AUC until 2004.
Federal prosecutors filed what's known as an "information" against Chiquita in a U.S. court Wednesday. Unlike an indictment, the information is resolved by the prosecutors and the defendants and is usually followed by a guilty plea.
Mayan activists 'purify' sacred site in Guatemala
IXIMCHE, Guatemala (AP) - A whiff of incense, a sputter of candles, a hum of prayer. Mayan Indian activists on Thursday offered the gentlest protest yet to the Latin American tour of U.S. President George W. Bush as they held a purification ceremony to drive out the "bad spirits" they said he had left behind during a stop at their ancient pyramid.
Bush visited Iximche, capital of the prehispanic Kaqchiqueles kingdom, during his daylong trip to Guatemala as part of a five-nation tour of Latin America.
The activists said the bad spirits were roused by Bush's policies, including the U.S.-led war in Iraq and an immigration raid last week in Massachusetts that netted several Guatemalan immigrants and left dozens of their children stranded at schools.
"Today is a special day on the Mayan calendar," said Jorge Morales, director of the Young Mayan Movement. "That's why we are taking advantage to do this special event to clean and get rid of the bad spirits and re-establish this sacred place's harmony."
The group of about a dozen ascended a partially restored stone pyramid to a central altar, where they burned incense, scattered holy water and bowed to the ground in prayer.
The organizers of the protest are leaders of Indian rights organizations associated with the left-leaning National Indian and Peasant Co-ordinating Committee.
© The Canadian Press, 2007

Si­ Es Verdad
by Tim Costello, Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
March 15, 2007

President Bush got a big surprise on his goodwill visit to
Guatemala this week. Protesters filled the streets of
Guatemala City to denounce an immigration raid that took place
at a leather goods factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts on
March 6th. The raid resulted in the arrest of 361 people,
most of them undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and El
Salvador.Even the President of Guatemala criticized the raids
in his welcoming speech to Bush on his arrival. This is big
news in Guatemala because 10% of the entire Guatemalan
population - many of them undocumented - lives in the US.

The press in Guatemala - and in Massachusetts - has been filled
with stories of the raid and its aftermath of families
shattered,children separated from their parents, and children
being held in federal custody. According to the New York Times:

"Facing pointed questions from Guatemalan journalists,Mr. Bush
stood by the raid, saying, 'People will be treated with
respect,but the United States will enforce our law. Mr. Bush
said he disputed 'conspiracies' relayed by Mr.
Berger [Guatemala's President] that children were taken away
from families. Mr. Bush denied such accounts. 'No es la
verdad,' Mr. Bush said, 'That's not the way America operates.
We're a decent, compassionate country. Those are the kind
of things we do not do. We believe in families, and we'll treat
people with dignity."

Well, si­ es verdad. Days after the raids the
Massachusetts Department of Social Services ( DSS) reported
that they 'could not connect 100 children with their
families'. One woman arrested in the raid was flown back from
Texas where she was being held when her 7 year old daughter
called a hot line created to unite families divided by the raid
to ask about her mother'swhereabouts. Two nursing infants were
hospitalized for dehydration when they were separated from
their mothers.

Once again Bush is either lying or out of touch with reality.
The events of this raid have been well documented and
roundly condemned by the press and politicians in Massachusetts
across the political spectrum. In the era of global
communications, people in Guatemala didn't even have to rely
on the media; they could pick up the phone and call their
relatives in New Bedford to find out what was really going on.

The New Bedford raid had what is by now a familiar feel to it.
On March 6, up to 500 government agents, police, and others
surrounded the Michael Bianco, Inc.leather goods factory in
New Bedford Massachusetts. Inside, an announcement came over
loudspeakers, 'Stay where you are. Immigration agents are in
the building.' Panic ensued as workers made a run for it, but
the exits were blocked, some by police with guns drawn. Some
workers scurried into hiding places, hoping to wait out the

When the building was finally locked down agents instructed US
citizens or green card holders to move to one area and all
others to another area. Workers were interviewed. Some were
released in a few hours because of compelling health or family
reasons. But most were loaded onto buses and transported to a
holding facility on Fort Devens, a former military base about
60 miles away.

Following processing at Fort Devens, 70 of those arrested
were released for a variety reasons within a few days, 90 are
being held in various jails in Massachusetts and Rhode Island,
and 207 were flown far from their homes and families to jails
in Texas. 8 minors were picked up, 3 were released, the rest
are being held in Miami.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick engaged in a few
testy exchanges with the Department of Homeland Security as did
Senators Kennedy and Kerry and other members of the state's
Congressional delegation. Patrick attacked the 'race to the
airport,' to move the workers out of state before they could be
properly interviewed. Kennedy compared the effect of the raids
to, 'the tragedy and human suffering that we all
witnessed after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane
Katrina....These men and women had not harmed anyone. They were
victims of exploitation, forced to work under barbaric
conditions by an employer who knew that they could not afford
to complain. Their children, many of whom are United States
citizens, had done nothing wrong at all. None of them had any
reason to expect that the Departmentof Homeland Security would
decide to make an example out of them."

Kerry called for a Congressional investigation of the raid.

Meanwhile, immigrant rights groups rushed to court and won
a federal court order to halt the out of state flights. But
most of the captives had already been moved.

The Massachusetts DSS sent two teams of 18 social workers
to Texas to interview those arrested. They asked that 21 mothers
be returned to Massachusetts immediately. While the Department
of Homeland Security maintains that it has worked closely with
DSS in the aftermath of the raids, DSS Commissioner
Harry Spence angrily denies this: 'They stopped us at every
step of the way. ICE's rhetoric has been completely different
from the truth.'

The company - owned by Michael Bianco - makes backpacks and vests
for the military under a $138 million contract, and
employs about 500 people. The firm also makes high end leather
goods for name brands like Coach, Inc.

Bianco and four others were arrested following the raid
and charged with knowingly employing undocumented workers or
providing false documents to workers. But unlike the workers,
Bianco and the managers were immediately released on bail and
were back at work the next day.

The Pentagon's contract rules encourage sweatshop production
like those that exist at Bianco, Inc. In fact, Massachusetts'
politicians complained to the Department of Defense long
before the raids about poor labor conditions in
factories producing uniforms and other articles for the
military, although they did not specially mention Bianco.

At a press conference announcing the raid US Attorney Michael
Sullivan pointed to the 'horrible' conditions in the
plant. Indeed an 11 month long investigation, which included
the use of undercover agents, turned up evidence of classic
sweatshop conditions: low wages, no benefits, harsh working
conditions which included restrictions on workers talking or
using restrooms, and workers' pay being docked for
infractions of workplace rules.

Yet no attempt was made to enforce labor laws. Instead,
the victims of the labor abuse were arrested and transported
and their children subjected to what, by virtually any
definition, is child abuse by federal authorities.

The story of the New Bedford raid is still unfolding. But it
could have areal impact on the current immigration debate.

Many advocates of immigration reform see the increase in
the number of raids by the Bush Administration as a move to
satisfy both the hard-line anti-immigrant wing of the
Republican Party and the corporate wing that wants access to
cheap immigrant labor through a guest worker program.
By creating a crisis, the Bush Administration hopes to push
through an immigration reform bill that it likes. It's unclear
whether the strategy will be successful.

On the one hand, many well meaning people - and some not so well-
meaning people - are now calling for immediate action
on comprehensive immigration reform. Massachusetts Senator
Kennedy is preparing to refile a bill similar to one filed in
the last session of Congress that attracted bi-partisan
support. That bill would provide an amnesty for many ofthose
already living in the US. But it would also create a guest
worker program for future immigrant flows and increase funding
for enforcement. It is as we have often written a bad
bill. It will not prevent future immigrant flows; it does not
stop New Bedford-style raids but instead increases enforcement
funding; and it creates a guest worker program that
could institutionalize sweatshops, since it is clear that
authorities are not interested in enforcing labor laws even
when they know from their own investigations that rampant labor
law violations exist.

On the other hand, the New Bedford raid could have a positive
blowback effect. As a result of Bush's visit to Latin America
and the protests in Guatemala, the raid may serve to highlight
the need for a hemispheric approach to immigration reform. Real
reform must involve both the sending and the receiving
countries and as the US moves to further militarize the border
and more draconian raids take place, Latin Americans are
demanding more of a say in how immigration is managed. Latin
American countries weighed in on the U.S.immigration law
reform debate last year, and the coalitions of social
movements and labor such as the Hemispheric Social Alliance
have long proposed principlesto regulate immigration
throughout the Americas.

It's time for immigrant rights advocates, labor unions, and
other elements of global civil society with a stake in
US immigration policy to step into the vacuum and create a new
immigration discourse and program based the realities of
immigrant flows in the age of globalization .

[Tim Costello, Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith are the
co-founders of Global Labor Strategies, a resource center
providing research and analysis on globalization, trade and
labor issues. GLS staff have published many previous reports on
a variety of labor-related issues, including Outsource This!
American Workers, the Jobs Deficit, and the Fair Globalization
Solution, Contingent Workers Fight For Fairness, and Fight
Where You Stand!: WhyGlobalization Matters in Your Community
and Workplace. They have also written and produced the Emmy-
nominated PBS documentary Global Village or Global Pillage? GLS
has offices in New York, Boston, and Montevideo,Uruguay.
For more on GLS visit: or email]

Full Tanks at the Cost of Empty Stomachs:
The Expansion of the Sugarcane Industry in Latin America

We, representatives of organizations and social movements of Brasil,
Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic,
gathered at a forum on the expansion of the sugarcane industry in Latin
America, declare that:

The current model of production of bioenergy is sustained by the same
elements that have always caused the oppression of our peoples:
appropriation of territory, of natural resources, and the labor force.

Historically the sugar industry served as an instrument to maintain
colonialism in our countries and the creation of dominant classes that have
controlled, through today, large extensions of land, the industrial process,
and commercialization. This sector is based on latifundio ownership, on the
overexploitation of labor (including slave labor) and the appropriation of
public resources. This sector was created upon intensive and extensive
monocropping, provoking concentration of land, profit, and wealth.

The sugarcane industry was one of the main agricultural activities developed
in the colonies. It allowed sectors that controlled production and
commercializaction to continue accumulating capital and with this contribute
to the development of capitalism in Europe. In Latin America, the creation
and control of the State, beginning in the 19th century, continued to
service the colonial interests. Currently, control of the State by this
sector is characterized by so-called "bureaucratic capitalism". The sugar
industry defined the political structures of national States and of Latin
American economies.

In Brasil, beginning in the 1970s, during the so-called world oil "crisis",
the sugarcane industry began to produce fuel, which justified its
maintenance and expansion. The same was repeated in 2004, with the new
Pro-Alcohol program, which principally serves to benefit agribusiness. The
Brasilian government began to stimulate the production of biodiesel as well,
principally to guarantee the survival and expansion of large extensions of
soy monoculture. To legitimate this policy and camouflage its destructive
effects, the government stimulated the diversified production of biodiesel
by small producers, with the objective of creating a "social seal". The
monocultures have expanded into indigenous areas and other territories of
native peoples.

In February of 2007, the United States government announced its interest in
establishing a partnership with Brasil in the production of biofuels,
characterized as the principal "symbolic axis" in the relation between the
two countries. This is clearly a phase of a geopolitical strategy of the
United States to weaken the influence of countries such as Venezuela and
Bolivia in the region. It also justifies the expansion of monocultures of
sugarcane, soy, and african palm in all Latin American territories.

Taking advantage of the legitimate concern of international public opinion
on global warming, large agricultural companies, biotechnology companies,
oil companies, and auto companies now perceive that biofuels represent an
important source for the accumulation of capital.

Biomass is falsely presented as the new energy matrix, the ideal of which is
renewable energy. We know that biomass will not actually be able to
substitute fossil fuels, nor is it renewable.

Some characteristics inherent to the sugar industry are the destruction of
the environment and the overexploitation of labor. The principal workforce
is migrant labor. As a result, processes of migration are stimulated, making
workers more vulnerable and attempts at organization more difficult. The
rigorous work of cutting sugarcane has caused the death of hundreds of

Female workers who cut sugarcane are exploited even more, as they receive
lower salaries or, in some countries such as Costa Rica, do not directly
receive salaries. Payment is made to the husband or partner. Child labor is
commonly practiced in the industry throughout Latin America, as well as the
exploitation of youth as the main labor force in the suffocating process of
cutting sugarcane.

Workers do not have any control over the total amount of their production
and as a consequence over their salary, as they are paid according to the
quantity cut and not for hours worked. This situation has serious
implications for the health of workers and has caused the death of workers
through fatigue and the excessive labor that requires cutting up to 20 tons
per day. The majority of contracts are through third party intermediaries or
"gatos". This complicates the possibility of achieving workers' rights, as
formal work contracts do not exist. The figure of the employer is hidden in
this process, which negates the very existence of labor relations.

The Brasilian State stimulates the use of resettled lands under agrarian
reform and lands of small producers, currently responsible for 70% of the
production of food, for biofuel crops, compromising food sovereignty.

As a result, we assume the commitment of:

Expanding and strengthening the struggles of social movements in Latin
America and the Caribbean, through an articulation among existing workers'
organizations and support groups.

Denouncing and combating any agrarian model based on monocultures and
concentration of land and profit, destructive of the environment,
responsible for slave labor and the overexploitation of the working force.
Changing the current agrarian model implies a full realization of a profound
Agrarian Reform that eliminates latinfundios.

Strengthening rural workers' organizations, salaried workers, and
farmworkers to construct a new model that is closely cemented to farmworker
agriculture and agroecology, with diversified production, prioritizing
internal consumption. It is important to fight for a policy of subsidies for
the production of food. Our principal objective is to guarantee food
sovereignty, as the expansion of the production of biofuels aggravates
hunger in the world. We cannot maintain our tanks full while stomachs go
[Comissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT)
Grito dos Excluídos
Movimento Sem Terra (MST)
Servico Pastoral dos Migrantes (SPM)
Rede Social de Justica e Direitos Humanos
Via Campesina]

Bush to Press Free Trade in a Place Where Young
Children Still Cut the Cane
March 12, 2007 New York Times

CHIMALTENANGO, Guatemala, March 11 -- Work starts early
for the people of the Guatemalan countryside, sometimes
as early as 5 or 6. Not the time, the age.

Guatemalan children shine shoes and make bricks. They
cut cane and mop floors. At some factories exporting to
the United States, they sew and sort and chop, often in
conditions so onerous they violate even Guatemala's
very loose labor laws.

"They like us young people because we don't say
anything when they yell at us," said Alma de los
Angeles Zambrano, 15, who recently quit after 18 months
at a food processing plant to work part time for an
organization trying to improve conditions for young

President Bush is likely to miss this side of
Guatemala's labor market when he comes to this rural
area on Monday to visit a thriving agricultural
cooperative that sells products to Wal-Mart's stores in
Central America. The president will meet with Mariano
Canu, the leader of a United States-backed co-op that
hopes to take advantage of theCentral American Free
Trade Agreement. Mr. Canu is doing well enough that his
children are in school preparing for Guatemala's new

Opening up trade, Mr. Bush argues, will ultimately
raise wages and improve working conditions in Central
America. "My message to those trabajadores y
campesinos," Mr. Bush said last week, using the Spanish
words for workers and peasants, "is you have a friend
in the United States of America. We care about your

But this country's young workers, most of them poor
indigenous people, say they often feel that nobody
cares about them: not their parents, who send them off
to the work force; not their stern bosses, who treat
them like adults; not the dysfunctional government off
in Guatemala City.

"It's a major concern," said Manuel Manrique, Unicef's
representative in Guatemala. "Child labor keeps
children out of school. The numbers are very high and
there's a social acceptance in this country that child
labor is O.K."

None of the child workers interviewed around here said
they had yet felt any benefits of Cafta, as the trade
pact is known, which Guatemala signed nearly two years
ago and which slipped through the United States
Congress by a hair. One provision in Cafta, which is
intended to increase trade by eliminating tariff and
nontariff barriers, requires companies to adhere to
local labor laws and commits the United States to
helping improve inspections.

But that is easier said than done. Guatemala's labor
code sets the minimum age for employment at 14. In some
cases, though, the government can provide work permits
to even younger children. Children under 14, who require
parental permission to work, are supposed to work in
apprenticeships appropriate for their age. Economic
necessity in the family must be shown, which is not a
problem in this country where 80 percent of the
population lives in poverty and two-thirds of that
number, or 7.6 million people, live in extreme poverty.

But with little enforcement of labor laws, those
conditions are routinely violated. Guatemalan
workplaces can resemble grade schools, with adult
supervisors standing over little laborers like the
strictest of teachers.

The State Department acknowledged in its latest human
rights report for Guatemala released this month that
"child labor was a widespread and serious problem" and
that "laws governing the employment of minors were not
enforced effectively."

A few hours before leaving for Guatemala on Saturday,
Gordon D. Johndroe, the National Security Council
spokesman traveling with Mr. Bush, said: "Cafta, in its
nine-month existence, is beginning to bring economic
benefits to the people of Central America, but it will
clearly take some time before all those benefits are
fully realized. We'll continue to work with the
Guatemalan government to make sure all obligations to
their people are met."

An independent study of the issue estimated that about
a million Guatemalan children under age 18 are working.
Another review by the United Nations found 16 percent
of children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the labor
force in2000, more of them boys than girls.

The child workers are people like Maria, 16, who
lamented her four years in the labor force but at the
same time insisted that she not be fully identified so
as not to endanger a job that is helping to support her
parents and four brothers and sisters.

"My father hits me and tells me I can't study," she
said, tears running down her cheeks. "He stays home and
drinks and I have to go to the factory."

She studies on the sly. On Sundays, her only day off,
she goes to special classes for young laborers offered
by the Center for Study and Support for Local
Development, a small group known by its Spanish
initials, Ceadel. Despite having worked at a factory
since she was 12 and at home for years before that,
Maria has now completed the equivalent of third grade.

"I can be so tired, so exhausted, but I feel so good
when I come home and read," she said, her tears
stopping and her face lightingup. "It can be any book.
I just like to see the words."

Critics of Cafta see Guatemala's child labor problem as
evidence of the flaws in so-called free trade.

Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, was one of the
principle opponents of Cafta while he was in the House
of Representatives. "These trade agreements were
written for investors in large American corporations,"
he said in a telephone interview. "They weren't written
for American workers and they weren't written to
protect Central American children."

Cafta's backers, however, say it will take time to lift
countries like Guatemala out of poverty and to improve
longstanding social problems like child labor. The
United States government is paying for efforts to
improve the Ministry of Labor, which is now so
dysfunctional that some inspectors say that since they
work during the day they cannot possibly investigate
reports that children are working night shifts.

Mr.Bush, in his speech in Washington before leaving on
his Latin American trip, said American government aid
had helped lift Guatemala's percentage of children who
complete first grade to 71 percent from 51 percent, a
significant increase but one that illustrates the dire
state of education in the country.

"Children have more energy and they don't complain or
know anything about unions," said Carlos Toledo, whose
Asociacion Nuestros Derechos aids child laborers. "For
a company, they are perfect."

To draw attention to the issue of child labor in
advance of Mr. Bush's visit to Chimaltenango, the
National Labor Committee, a New York-based group that
has investigated gross labor violations worldwide,
interviewed child workers in the area.

The group focused on Legumex, a factory that exports
broccoli, melons and other fruits and vegetables to the
United States, and in a report to be issued on Monday
accuses it of violating a host of labor laws, including
employing children, some as young as 13, for shifts
longer than permitted.

Charles Kernaghan, director of the labor group, traced
the food exports to American food service marketers
that distributes to schools, hospitals, restaurants and
the military. "It is very possible that children in the
U.S. may be eating broccoli harvested and processed by
other children in Guatemala," Mr. Kernaghan said in a

But at Legumex, executives interviewed about child
labor in general insisted that they were complying with
labor laws. They said they did not employ children
under 18 without parental permission. They said they
paid low wages -- which they said were the legal minimum
of about a dollar a day but that Mr. Kernaghan said
were well below it -- because of the low prices paid for
their products in the United States.

"We're a developing country," said Hermann Peterson,
the company's auditor. "We can't have the
same conditions as factories in the United States."

Latin America Solidarity Committee
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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)