Congo: Sexual Terrorism: Bureaucratic Realism vs. Academic Word-mongering Malpractice

By admin, December 31, 2009 10:46 pm

Sexual Terrorism: Bureaucratic Realism vs. Academic Word-mongering Malpractice

http://alexengwete.blogspot.com/2009/10/sexual-terrorism-bureaucratic-realism.html

Versions of this post appeared on OpEdNews and on Alex Engwete (French). Recently, the phenomenon of sexual terrorism has taken on a new form in eastern Congo: “bush wives” or those “men raped by other men,” to use New York Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman’s tautological expression, for to date, in the African Great Lakes region, rapists only come in one gender: men!

Rwanda exported “sexual terrorism” to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mostly in the late 1990s, when the chase and revenge killings of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide turned into a full-scale counter-genocide of Hutu refugees with more than 230,000 victims.

Beside outright killings, rapes and sexual mutilations of Hutu women were systematically carried out as a form of punishment for their ethnic group’s perpetration of genocide in Rwanda. And since then, northeastern Congo has become the epicenter of this scourge where it has festered among roving armed bands, penetrated the anthropological fabric of the Congolese society, and results today in the near psychological and physical destruction of rape victims from that part of the country. A sociohistorical antecedent that still has to find a definition and a body of scholarship in social sciences. The most shocking thing about this is that the ongoing sexual terrorism in the Congo has caused scant media attention in Africa and in the rest of the world. A situation that has since been remedied with the release last year of Lisa Jackson’s award-winning documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.

What’s more, African and Congolese social scientists claim to be unable to develop a theoretical tool able to map out, trace, and explain the horrific phenomenon. As the photographer Hazel Thompson puts it in the legend of one of the horrific photographs she brought back from eastern Congo in early October 2007: “No one — doctors, aid workers, Congolese and Western researchers — can explain exactly why this is happening. ‘We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,’ said Dr.[Denis] Mukwege (above photo), ‘They are done to destroy women.’”

Really! Would then this be the first human deviant behavior to baffle scientists in the history of the social sciences?

And yet, in the course of only a 3-week fieldwork period in eastern Congo in the winter of 2004, a couple of female bureaucrats at USAID who didn’t shy away from tackling head on this phenomenon, gave it the name sexual terrorism, now tagged by the UN, and developed in the process a basic theoretical toolkit for understanding it – to the shame and grief of academic social scientists!

What’s sexual terrorism?

The findings of these two bureaucrats are contained in a small, little-known 30-page assessment report by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiative and Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that was published on 18 March 2004 in PDF format. Besides defining sexual terrorism, tracing its roots, and offering the first description of its horrific psycho-medical impact on women, the most interesting thing about the conceptual development of this document is the fact that it was wholly elaborated by a team of women in the rape fields of the Congo. The document is entitled Sexual Terrorism: Rape as a Weapon of War in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: An Assessment of programmatic responses to sexual violence in North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, and Orientale Provinces (January 9-16, 2004).

The report was penned by Dr Marion Pratt (Social Science Advisor) and Leah Werchik, J.D. (Human Rights Advisor) – with a team of 5 other women bureaucrats, and a host of Congolese women investigators. What’s also very significant about this report is that, though written by bureaucrats, it is bound one day to become a seminal academic conceptual tool in analyzing the phenomenon.

The report’s definition of “sexual terrorism” is descriptive:

“Rape and associated violence against civilians (women, men, girls, and boys) have been widely employed as weapons in the multiple regional and civil wars that have plagued the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Such violence was noted in cross-border hostilities in 1991 but became more frequent in1994 in the context of regional conflicts stemming from the Rwandan genocide and the pursuant exodus of Rwandan civilians and armed groups into eastern DRC. Fighting continued and grew in the two waves of conflict – known locally as World War I and World War II – that followed in 1996 and 1998, involving seven countries at one point. Perceived as a particularly effective weapon of war and used to subdue, punish, or take revenge upon entire communities, acts of sexual and gender-based violence increased concomitantly. Attacks have comprised individual rapes, sexual abuse, gang rapes, mutilation of genitalia, and rape-shooting or rape-stabbing combinations, at times undertaken after family members have been tied up and forced to watch. The perpetrators have come from among virtually all of the armies, militias and gangs implicated in the conflicts, including local bands that attacked their own communities and local police forces. According to a doctor at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, many victims in that area reported that attackers would encircle villages and rape the women publicly and collectively, including children and the elderly.”

African academics would certainly gain in realism by reading through this short report. The one attempt to my knowledge by an African (male) scholar to describe the phenomenon is couched in almost unreadable language characteristic of the much-discredited deconstruction fad (though the scholar I’m referring to would vehemently refute my lumping him with postmodern Derridean deconstructionists). The Cameroonian academic and prolific postmodernist theorist Achille Mbembe, whom I am referring to, attempted, as I just said, to grasp this phenomenon of sexual terrorism in parts of his essay entitled “Sovereignty as a Form of Expenditure.” I am not even going to dwell on this notion of “expenditure” [dépense] borrowed from the one-time surrealist French philosopher Georges Bataille. But suffice it to say that when our African (male) scholar tries to capture the phenomenon, he fails miserably as he plods through the conceptual field of the equally discredited old psychoanalytic rut:

“In the face of the sense – widespread among men – of menacing feminization, rites of proving or demonstrating one’s virility are multiplying. With the assistance of a context dominated by wars, the tension between what is threatened with extinction and what both formerly has been and now is suppressed is exacerbated, and relations of substitutability between the phallus and the gun are instituted.


On the one hand, and for a number of child-soldiers who now make up the greater part of the armed bands, the demonstration of one’s virility is achieved by means of the gun. The possession of a gun acts, in its turn, as the equivalent of the possession of a phallus on one’s passage out of the age of virginity. But the mediation of the gun for the phallus is only imaginary. Putting to death by means of the gun takes place almost simultaneously with being put to the test through the act of sex – in this case, generally speaking, by group rape. On the other hand, to possess a gun is to enjoy a position of almost unrestricted access to sexual goods; it is, above all, to have access in a very concrete manner to a certain form of abundance at the heart of which a woman is constituted as a superfluity, as what one can dispense with without concern as for whether one will be able to replace it with a similar provision at a later date. Finally, the sexual act itself manages to become an element, not merely of rape, but of violence as such. Rape, to the extent that access to the inwardness of woman is achieved by breaking and entering; violence, to the extent that one uses force to possess and to dominate someone else’s will as one would in combat. And so enjoyment through the gun and through the phallus are conjoined, the one ending in a corporeality that is inert and emptied of all life, death; and the other by a discharge as violent as it is brief, the orgasmic satisfaction by the means of which the power of enjoyment is converted into a power of radically objectifying the Other, whose body one bores into, digs into, excavates, and empties in the very act of rape.”

Now, this is certainly great wordsmithery at best or, at worst, utter shamanism in the art of word-mongering. It’s a shame that this wordy exercise should come from an African scholar reflecting on an urgent African problem! I just used my “word count” tool on both these quotations: the definition of sexual terrorism by Dr. Marion Pratt and Leah Werchik consists of about 227 words, while Achille Mbembe’s obscure aphorism runs for about 375 words that have absolutely no bearing on the destruction of women currently taking place in the Congo. My guess is that had Dr. Patt and Werchik produced the kind of Mbembe’s lyrical narrative to their supervising boss, they’d have been fired on the spot and driven off any American bureaucracy!

The report of Dr Pratt and Werchik should shame all of us that usually lament the built-in systemic wastefulness of bureaucracies and big government. In fact, the U.S. government should staff its bureaucracy with more of this type of no-nonsense bureaucrats. In contrast, the kind of scholarly obfuscation displayed by Achille Mbembe, given the urgent need of action and solutions on behalf of African women victims of sexual terrorism, amounts to reckless academic malpractice. Wouldn’t we then understand why some have called this kind of postmodern “new scholarship” an empty, solipsist, and nihilistic exercise devoid of any realism that would make Bertrand Russell turn in his grave? Would we then question the policy of some African countries faced with limited resources, like Botswana, to restrict scholarship awards for higher education abroad only to those students pursuing studies in “hard sciences”? Wouldn’t academia benefit by opening up to practical scholarly analysis displayed by bureaucrats of the likes of Dr Pratt and Werchik instead of constricting its “cultural studies” departments’ productions to empty exercises in intellectual self-cannibalism by overpaid star scholars?

What’s very astonishing is that Achille Mbembe’s essay is contained in a collective book edited by Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat entitled Sovereign Bodies: Citizens, Migrants, and States in the Postcolonial World (Princeton University Press) published in 2005 – that is, one full year after Dr. Pratt and Werchik’s report was released and posted on the internet. Which means that a simple Google search could have saved Achille Mbembe from whirling around in the embarrassing conceptual rumba we read above.

To get a sense of the horrors of “sexual terrorism,” we thus need to leave the hallways of academia and go to the cubicles of American bureaucracy. A change of venue that shows that Academia is irrelevant when it comes to solving pressing African problems today.

In the short report meticulously and economically crafted by Dr. Pratt and Werchik, the alleged mystery of the mechanism of sexual terrorism unfolds without any syntactic contortions. In just one page of this report, we learn that sexual terrorism has no bounds in terms of its victims’ age who “range in age from four months… to 84 years of age”; in terms of its social consequences as “wave after wave of armed occupation resulted in the disintegration of the moral and social fabric in many localities”; and in terms of its medical, psychosocial, economic, and physiological toll: “Social stigma has left large numbers of rape victims and children born of rape rejected by their families and communities. Many cases of HIV and other infections remain untested and untreated. Fear of going to fields and markets, sites where rapes often take place, has resulted in spiraling malnutrition and economic loss. Widespread criminal impunity and inadequate local and regional governance leave communities without means to reduce the violence.”

The descriptive mode of the report by no means signifies that these two USAID bureaucrats have no understanding of the general academic theory on rape – in fact their short report contains a bibliography with 28 references, including books, reports, and scholarly articles. They do indeed rehearse the most recent scholarly typology of the scourge of rape – specifically Dr. Patricia Rozée’s categories: “punitive rape (used to punish, to elicit silence and control); status rape (occurring as a result of acknowledged differences in rank – master/slave, nobleman/commoner; etc); ceremonial rape (undertaken as part of socially sanctioned rituals or ceremonies); exchange rape (when genital contact is used as a bargaining tool or gesture of conciliation or solidarity); theft rape (involuntary abduction of individuals as slaves, prostitutes, concubines, or spoils of war); and survival rape (when young women become involved with older men to secure goods and/or services needed to survive.” To this, Dr. Pratt and Werchik add their own categories: rape “used to subjugate [entire] populations as a means of gaining access to valuable or scarce assets.”

In tracing the origins of the on-going destruction of women in the Congo, these two bureaucrats point to its “ground zero” of origination: “Certainly, partly due to women’s low legal status in both the traditional and civil domains, rape existed in the eastern provinces before the Rwandan genocide exodus in 1994 and the civil wars of 1996 and 1998. However, most of those cases reportedly took the form of the rape of a girl by a male ‘admirer’ when she went to gather firewood or collect water, for example; the issue was resolved between families by marrying the two, or by requiring the perpetrator to pay restitution to the girl’s family in the form of one or two goats. The extremely high number of cases of rape and the horrific mutilations that began to be reported from 1996 on, however, appears to replicate the massive sexual violence documented in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide.”

The counter-genocide on the Hutu in the Congo by Rwandan troops that spearheaded Laurent Kabila’s rebel troops spread and entrenched this madness, which, according to this report, has even contaminated the Pygmies, who used to be ranked by anthropologists as belonging to the category of “peaceful communities”: “Even the pygmies (or Mbuti tribe), long known for their relatively peaceful demeanor and pacific philosophies, have been drawn into the violence. Their once seemingly idyllic life in the Ituri forests (…) has been slowly transformed at least partly by their painful absorption into more urban settings, and marked by abuse, exploitation, and profound ethnic discrimination. The team discovered that under the cloak of war-induced chaos in North Katanga and other areas, Pygmy men have finally begun to fight back, and are said to be responsible for raping and pillaging Bantu villages– allegedly with the encouragement of Rwandans – in retaliation for decades of abuse.”

What’s even alarming is that in some areas, rape has also turned into the social norm for curtailing or punishing women’s so-called “deviant” or “transgressive” behavior: “The use of sexual violence as a tool of domination and punishment has spread to the community level as well; the team was told of many individual cases of ‘punishment’ perpetrated by civilians against one another. In one instance in North Kivu, a young girl was raped by the owner of a mango tree for taking a green fruit without asking… The use of sexual violence has proliferated to the point that even the most seemingly minor of transgressions or old personal scores are now dealt with through the use of rape and violence.”

Adding to this mix newly-created rape superstitions of prepubescent and postmenopausal women – a superstition reminiscent of the South-African male fallacy on Aids-preemptive rape of female children, then the plight of Congolese women would seem to have no end in sight: “The team heard from several sources that superstitions and fetishism are also playing a role in sexual violence. It was said that some men believe that sex with prepubescent or postmenopausal women can give strength to or protect fighters from injury or death… Paid, professional féticheurs [shamans] in Beni and the surrounding area are allegedly taking advantage of the situation, advising their customers, for example, that raping young girls can protect them from harm or improve their business dealings.”

And page after page of this report, the horrific account of the destruction of Congolese women dissected with the precision and the cold matter-of-factness of traditional and seasoned scholarship that stands out as an indictment of the pomposity of Achille Mbembe or the conceptual helplessness of Congolese social scientists.

One is particularly horrified at the lack of statistics that could give the extent of this unprecedented destruction of women, due largely to the scarcity of funding for carrying out such grim tallies: “There is a natural tendency to want to know how extensive a problem sexual violence is in order to properly address it. However, the assessment team felt strongly that scarce funding should not be used at this time to try to determine total numbers of cases, victims, and survivors. Such studies can be carried out later if necessary, based on dossiers kept by human rights organizations, hospitals, NGOs, and other groups.”

But five years after the release of this report, the destruction of Congolese continues unabated in the jungle and townships of eastern Congo. With these destroyed women carrying in their bodies for the rest of their lives the psychological and physical stigmas: “Rape survivors with fistulas – tears in genital tissue that can cause uncontrollable leakage of fecal matter or urine – need highly specialized care that is both time-consuming and expensive. A doctor at Panzi Hospital told the team, “Sometimes the destruction is such that the women have no more vagina.”
***
Photo: Hazel Thompson for The New York Times

Two African Scumbags of the Year 2009: Joseph Kabila (DRC) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda)

By admin, December 31, 2009 10:37 pm

Two African Scumbags of the Year 2009: Joseph Kabila (DRC) and Paul Kagame (Rwanda)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

http://alexengwete.blogspot.com/2009/12/two-african-scumbags-of-year-2009.html

Fellow African Scumbags of the Year 2009
DRC’s Joseph Kabila (left) and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame (right)

These two men were responsible in 2009 of hundreds of deaths of innocent civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and,what’s more, this pair has put in place conditions that would soon obtain the death of tens of thousands of innocent Congolese civilians. Because of this tandem, people in eastern Congo won’t yet again celebrate a happy new year.

I was among those fools who, in January 2009, hailed the Rwandese-Congolese joint military operations in eastern Congo as the ushering of a new era of blissful peace in the Great Lakes region.
I was however shortly afterwards taken aback by the strong objections over these operations by Vital Kamerhe, then speaker of Congolese Parliament and a native of South Kivu—a rare person of integrity in the midst of the corrupt class of Congolese politicians.

Reacting to the joint operations decided in total opacity by President Kabila and without prior approval by both houses of the Congolese Parliament, Vital Kamerhe angrily voiced his disagreement to a reporter of Radio Okapi in a live interview:

“All I know is that the National Assembly adopted an exit-from-crisis plan in October 2008, submitted to the government as a recommendation. That plan had mapped out the framework of the normalization of our relations with Rwanda. That plan had also a political component. Which was therefore being done in Nairobi. But we also included in this plan that we must absolutely arrive one way or the other at eradicating the ex-FAR [pre-genocide army of Rwanda] and Interahamwe [genocidal militia].
[…]
Now you tell me that Rwandese troops have just entered the Congo, I wish to believe that it isn’t true, for if it’s true, it’s simply serious, for this would raise a number of questions. We ask ourselves the question, in what state of mind are our populations that have just come out of Rwandese aggression?”

The same news report of Radio Okapi noted that the “communities of northern Kivu province reacted with indignation [at the news of] this return of Rwandan soldiers in the Congo.”
But the stupefaction of Vital Kamerhe would prove costly to his political career. Within hours of his radio outburst, President Kabila’s party stalwarts were calling for Kamerhe’s resignation—with President Kabila claiming that Kamerhe was in fact calling for a popular uprising in eastern Congo.
Kamerhe didn’t go down easily, however, clinging to his speakership till April 2009 when he was finally demoted to a simple rank-and-file parlementarian. A downfall that makes a mockery of the qualifier “democratic” in the official name of the country as the “Democratic Republic of Congo.”
But just what happened that made the joint Rwandese- Congolese military operations possible?
In January 2009, General Nkunda, the renegade general who was wreaking havoc in the North Kivu province, was suddenly arrested in Rwanda and his troops all too unexpectedly decided to be integrated into the Congolese army. BTW, when Nkunda was arrested, the Congolese government made a tepid demand of extradition that was quickly brushed off by Rwandan authorities. And to this day, Nkunda is under house arrest in Rwanda and still remains a possible spoiler of “peace” in eastern Congo.
Jason Stearns, who is on the ground in eastern Congo and who maintains a terrific informative blog called “Congo Siasa,” explains that this dramatic turnabout happened because Rwanda wanted it to happen:

“When Laurent Nkunda was arrested in January 2009, he was replaced by Bosco Ntaganda as the military leader of the CNDP. According to several CNDP officers, General James Kabarebe, the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army, invited their officer corps across the border to Gisenyi to give them a choice: follow Bosco Ntaganda and integrate into the Congolese army or we will consider you as our enemies.”

A quick reminder is in order here:

1) In one of those surreal developments that could only happen in the African Great Lakes region of this world, Rwandan General James Kabarebe was also Congo’s army Chief of staff under President Laurent Kabila, the assassinated father of Joseph Kabila, “the deus ex machina imposed by Museveni upon Kagame” to lead what the Rwandan and Ugandan dictators thought would become a “Tutsi-led protectorate” of the Congo (René Lemarchand, The Dynamics of Violence in Central Africa, p. 33 and p. 17 for the quotes between quotation marks);

2) General Bosco Ntaganda, a wanted war criminal by the International Criminal Court (ICC), is still protected by the Congolese government under, as Jason Stearns’ report indicates, the dictates of the Rwandan government.

3) As noted above, the arrest of Nkunda by Rwanda translated on Congolese soil by the overnight “integration” of his troops, now under the command of General Bosco Ntaganda, into the Congolese army. This nominal integration means that these troops keep their chain of command and the territory under their control prior to their integration. This also means that virtually all of North Kivu is under the control of the ethnic Tutsi militia of CNDP.

So what happened after the joint Rwandese-Congolese joint military operations?

The answer to this question is contained in the 183-page Human Rights Watch report entitled “‘You will be punished’: Attacks on Civilians in Eastern Congo” released on December 13, 2009 that documents the harrowing massacres carried out by genocidal maniacs of the FDLR, armed bands, the Rwandan army and the “FARDC and coalition forces,” that is, the CNDP of Bosco Ntaganda.

I only lift a few excerpts from the Human Rights Watch report that show the long-term implications of what is transpiring on the ground in the Kivu:

1) “The attacks were perpetrated by Rwandan and Congolese coalition forces, although witnesses found it difficult to distinguish between Rwandan army soldiers and former CNDP combatants newly integrated into the Congolese army, who wore similar uniforms and spoke the same language [Kinyarwanda]” (p. 13);
2) “Former CNDP commanders newly integrated into the Congolese army appear to be using the operations as cover to gain control over mineral-rich areas and to clear the land for the return of Congolese Tutsi refugees and for cattle being brought in from Rwanda. The perceived dominance and preferential treatment given to former CNDP commanders has already led a number of local militia groups, often called Mai Mai, to abandon army integration. Some have joined forces with the FDLR” (p.22).
3) Rwandan civilian Hutu refugees “have been isolated and preyed upon for years by all sides” (p. 22).

The HRW report clearly shows these disturbing developments:

1) Rwanda, a “Tutsi dictatorship” (René Lemarchand), has established a de facto ethnic buffer zone inside the Congo, an Anschluss of sorts that is managed by the ethnic militia called CNDP which now has the label “FARDC” stamped on its outfit.

This worrisome development was duly noted in the UN Security Council Resolution 1906/2009 of 23 December 2009 that “Reiterates the primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo regarding the reform of its security sector, and encourages the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, working in cooperation with MONUC and other international partners, to build a core, well-vetted, multi-ethnic force, whose size, composition and structure should be developed by the Government, with the support of MONUC, with a view to strengthening the capacity, discipline and professionalism of the FARDC.”

2) The sudden influx from Rwanda of so-called refugees that has “sparked” “accusations” of a systematic ethnic “demographic engineering of North Kivu” and “Tutsi expansionism” (Jason Stearns). According to Jason Stearns, these refugees “are either Congolese Tutsi who were living amidst the civilian population, of whom there are quite a few, or Rwandan citizens. Congolese officials who have tried to interview returnees have been rebuffed by ex-CNDP units.”

As already noted, the CNDP runs a parallel administration on the territory under its control and has even expanded it on the territory previously under the control of the Kinshasa government. In those territories, the CNDP treats local government officials with the same contempt shown by Rwandese occupying forces during Africa’s World War.

This is for instance what happened on Christmas Eve 2009 in the city Butembo, according to the website Beni-Lubero Online, in a post entitled “Butembo: A CNDP officer frees by force from prison 5 Tutsi criminals”:

“The city of Butembo didn’t spend a peaceful Christmas [Eve]. This comes as no surprise as ever since the month of March 2009, date of the peace accords between Kinshasa and the CNDP, peace at high level is struggling to extend to civilian populations at the grassroots who live amidst wails and the gnashing of teeth. For the civilian population, the agreement of Ihussi (in Goma) resembles a pure and simple handover of North Kivu to CNDP. In fact, all the military officers that command the army in North Kivu are Rwandophones [Kinyarwanda-speakers] issuing from the ranks of CNDP with at the helm Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the ICP [International Criminal Court]. Political and administrative authorities who spoke on the condition of not being quoted by name claim to be powerless in the face of this CNDP military architecture[…]
[…]
The December 24 raid at the Central Prison of Kakwangura in Butembo shows indeed that CNDP officers are above the laws of the Republic and the institutions of the Province. The units issued from the CNDP are not only better equipped but better paid as well. This difference in treatment also explains the military superiority of former soldiers of CNDP over Congolese soldiers […] Thus a CNDP officer can disarm guards at the Central Prison of Butembo, detain the prison director, separate Tutsi criminals from other prisoners, and walk out with them—without the Territory Administrator, the Mayor of the city, the Province Governor, or the highest political and military hierarchy in Kinshasa uttering a word. It’s already the same thing in the case of the massacres of civilian populations in North Kivu and South Kivu, the political and administrative authorities keeping mum [over these incidents] while only talking about the ‘cinq chantiers’ [Kabila’s 5 development projects], peace restored in the east of the country, and so forth.
[...]
Here are the facts about the spectacular raid of Thursday December 24, 2009. At around 16:00, Butembo time, a Rwandese-speaking military officer coming from Kanyabayonga and who is claimed to be in charge of military operations in the area stretching from Kanyabayonga to Iringeti (according to some) or of the area called ‘North Sector’ (according to others), arrives at the Prison of Kakwangura in a jeep packed with soldiers armed to the teeth with assault rifles, RPGs, etc. Without delay, his soldiers encircle the building of the Prison of Kakwangura. This encirclement is followed by the disarming of policemen of the guard. The female director of the prison and other managerial agents of this penitentiary center are then remanded in temporary custody with interdiction to communicate with the outside. All these precautionary measures of the hold-up having been set in place, the military officer commanding the operation sets out to separate the 5 Tutsi prisoners [from other prisoners], all arrested in the south of Lubero for various crimes. According to our sources that have requested anonymity, among the 5 freed Tutsi prisoners were Captain Karajika Innocent, who is facing murder charges; Adjutant Bushiri and Lieutenant Bagabi arrested for violating direct orders; and a private called Eric Mwana Djuma, who was facing rape charges.”

This is the anecdotal lowdown in North Kivu: authorities bullied and manhandled, and civilians massacred in their own country by a predatory ethnic militia under the command of a foreign country. As one editorialist of Kinshasa predicts, President Joseph Kabila will bloviate in his New Year address to the Congolese people about peace restored in eastern Congo whereas on the ground it’s anything but peace. Shame on him!

René Lemarchand analytical concept of violence in eastern Congo and in the Great Lakes region is EXCLUSION. According to Lemarchand, there are three types of exclusion: 1) political exclusion, 2) economic exclusion, and 3) social exclusion—all three conditions have now coalesced in North Kivu, turning the place into a powder keg that will soon blow up. Again!

The eastern Congo is now under the occupation of a vicious ethnic militia of “Killers-Without-Borders”, with the complicity of the Kinshasa government. Rumours are rampant in Kinshasa of their integration into the government without going through the cumbersome electoral process–the prerequisite of the coalition of parties that share ministerial posts in Kinshasa. A new war is definitely brewing in the Congo…

For conspiring to put his own people under the yoke of a foreign country and for endangering the sovereignty and the security of his country, President Joseph Kabila of the DRC is on top of my list of African scumbags of 2009.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the mastermind of the mineral control (Lemarchand states that the formidable 50,000 to 100,000-strong Rwandan Defence Forces are unsustainable without tapping into Congo’s minerals) and the ethnic “demographic engineering” in eastern Congo, shares with the Congolese President the infamy of being one of the two African scumbags of the year 2009.

Globalization and terror : Dollar militarism, ALBA humanism

By admin, December 31, 2009 12:38 pm

Globalization: Dollar Militarism, ALBA Humanism

Opinion: Toni Solo

Globalization and terror : Dollar militarism, ALBA humanism

by Toni Solo

Many themes of global importance inter-relate when discussing events in Central America. An apparently simple discussion of local developments in the Nicaraguan economy ends up covering global issues. One has to look at the role of the dollar, the price of oil, the garbage-in-garbage-out twin moral failure of the US and European corporate media and financial systems, or the symmetry between increasing imperialist militarism and domestic economic decline.

Much comment on global issues fails to reflect current local realities. Similarly, a great deal of regional analysis understates the impact of broader global trends. Coverage – and the lack of it – of the latest ALBA country summit involving countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela) (1) with a combined population of over 75 million – reflects this very well.

Before pursuing that point, it is worth noting a poignant contrast. Much has been made of the abolition, by President Clinton in 1999, of the Glass-Steagall Act, that separated investment banking from commercial banking after the 1929 Wall Street crash. But few have stepped back to note the even more profound policy implications of the 2000 expiry of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act. Economics writer Henry C.K.Liu has noted that the Humphrey-Hawkins legislation in theory behoved the US government and Federal Reserve to sustain full employment.(2)

Among other things it “explicitly states that the federal government will rely primarily on private enterprise to achieve the four goals of full employment, growth, price stability, and balance of trade and budget.” Liu’s persuasive gloss on that is, “Implicitly, private enterprise must be regulated so that corporate profit is structurally aligned with the achievement of the four policy goals. The private sector cannot be allowed to prosper with counterproductive activities that negate the four policy goals and treat social costs as externalities to business. In welfare economics, an externality is a socio-economic cost created by one actor, the payment for which is imposed on others.”

The expiry of the Humphrey-Hawkins Act was, in effect, the last goodbye to a United States governed in any sense for the benefit of the majority. It was President Clinton and the Democrat wing of the US oligarchy who finally and categorically handed over the United States economy to the country’s corporate plutocracy. A similar betrayal has been under way for a long time in the European Union. That is why, now, the US government and its European allies have acted so vigorously to save major banks from bankruptcy while abandoning tens of millions of people to unemployment and indigence.

Contrast that fact with the fundamental policy statement of one of the ALBA country finance Ministers, Alberto Guevara of Nicaragua. Guevara explains that the economic vision of the FSLN government in Nicaragua is “not to act in political economy as if we were crunching numbers but rather to turn political economy into a social policy with economic implications, in such a way that when we take decisions of political economy we do so….on the basis of the millions of Nicaraguans behind the statistics, waiting at long last for the dream of the revolution to crystallize, for the dream of every woman and man in this country to crystallize, focused on making progress, on forging a better destiny for their children, for their people, for their barrio, their community, their municipality, for the whole country. So then, we are working on a revolutionary project that has the human person at the centre of the system, at the centre of the model.”

In Latin America, the ALBA countries are building an unprecedented economic system with the human person at its centre, based on solidarity, cooperation, redistribution and complementarity. By contrast, the United States government and legislature have abandoned all but the most vestigial remains of any humanist, humanitarian vision of political economy. It is worth exploring this contrast more deeply, because it also explains why US imperialist military aggression is likely to plunge the region into war.

The financial crisis

Interest rates in the US were kept deliberately below the inflation rate through 2002 and 2003. “The real funds rate, which is the nominal rate adjusted for inflation, was negative for three years, from October 2002 to October 2005″.(3) That signalled a vast extended credit boom. As the shadow banking system created by deregulation in the United States and Europe grew, it assimilated informal versions of the traditional money creation and control functions of Central Banks. The same speculative financial entities – most obviously, mega-banks and hedge funds – built on exploiting volatility and manipulating marginal differences between global markets, taking on the role of large-scale, informal money creators, perhaps most damagingly in the housing sector.

They created enormous volumes of out-of-control debt in the shape of convoluted notional securitized assets and swap quasi-insurance-bets beyond the reach of Central Banks and other regulators. Governments and Central Banks blatantly and grotesquely abrogated their regulatory functions in the name of “free markets”, despite the accumulated wisdom of decades indicating that poorly regulated markets are bound to fail. Asset price inflation and ballooning debt were treated with unbelievable crassness by incestuous economic and political authorities as if they equalled growth.

The overseers of the Western Bloc financial system ignored the very fiscal and monetary rectitude global enforcers like the IMF and the World Bank impose so sanctimoniously on impoverished developing countries. Now, a structural adjustment is being imposed by their governments on the peoples of Western Bloc financial delinquents like the United States, Britain, Spain and Ireland, to name the obvious cases. At the same time, trillions of dollars – over US$13 trillion in the US alone – have magically appeared with which to bail out Western Bloc financial institutions.

Relatively trifling sums available for social spending, for reducing poverty at home and for development cooperation overseas, are cut. Conversely, the US military budget increases each year by hundreds of billions of dollars. Other NATO countries, Canada and the Europeans, continue to fund billion-dollar interventions in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Apparently, no other outcome is possible in the weird cynical fantasy world of Western Bloc country governments, still imaginatively and culturally hostage to the hypocrisy and sadism of their colonial past, now being progressively and zealously applied to their own peoples.

The dollar and accountancy rules

Forget the fairy tale of the “free market”. No such thing has ever existed, nor ever will. Central banks and governments work intimately with giant corporate finance entities to nudge markets along desired lines – that is why, for example, major US financial entities like Goldman Sachs, J.P.Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and insurance giant AIG have been underwritten through the financial crisis, one way or another, by the US government. Note that Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, J.P.Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are all Primary Government Securities Dealers – vital Federal Reserve partners in managing global markets.(4) Right now the dollar is being allowed to slide just as it was from 2007 into 2008. Once again commodity prices are rising sharply. Oil has risen abruptly to over US$80. Gold is well over US$1000.

This is not just because a weaker dollar helps close the US current account deficit. That kind of old-economy-thinking expired along with the Humphrey-Hawkins Act. Volatile dips, swings and lurches in commodity and currency markets allow major rich-country corporate financial entities to make billions of dollars in profits via bets using hapless tax-payers’ bail-out money. On top of that the low Federal Reserve funds rate means banksters are able to borrow at almost zero interest. No serious attempt has been made to reverse the abolition of Glass-Steagall and fence off investment bank speculation on international markets from domestic commercial bank lending. While the US and British economies stagnate for lack of genuinely productive stimulus, in the US the real-economy-free financial sector rushes to remake itself, in part to head off the effects of stringent postponed accounting rules that come into play from November onwards.

Who cares about accounting rules? Well, you would, if it meant you could value your assets on what your paid advisers reckoned them to be rather than what you could currently get for them in the market. All those corporate “free market” enthusiasts leapt at the chance of abandoning so-called “mark-to-market” rules early in 2009 because it allowed them to apply more generous valuations to much-depreciated assets. Thus they can borrow more than they would otherwise be able to by re-leveraging their assets using those more generous values. Then they take that money – effectively free, at less than 1% – and game it in the stock market, in commodities markets, in currency markets.

They do all kinds of things with their profits except invest them so as to generate employment and productive activity in the real economy. They pay their already overpaid staff billions of dollars in bonuses, they help the Federal Reserve monetize government debt by buying government bonds paying 3% or 4% interest, they work with the Federal Reserve to try out new exit strategies, experimenting in controlling inflation through mechanisms like paying interest to them on balances they hold with the Reserve, via intricate, strategically managed reverse-repurchase transactions, via the purchase of Federal Reserve long-term securities.(5) Or they just hoard the money ready to face the effects of Financial Accounting Standards Board changes to Rule 140 which obliges them to bring unloved off-balance sheet Special Purpose Entities onto their balance sheets from November 15th onwards.

Special Purpose Entities have long been used by corrupt corporate financial entities – Enron is the most notorious example – to keep worthless assets off their balance sheet. Doing so inflates the value of the corporate entity. To get an idea of the sums involved, in 2008 Citigroup held over US$800bn in Qualifying Special Purpose Entities, JPMorgan Chase over $600 billion, Bank of America over $80 billion and Wells Fargo almost US$40bn. Despite the farcical government-supervised “stress tests”, no one really knows for sure the amounts by which such corporate financial entities will have to write down their balance sheets once the rule change takes effect. It will certainly affect their market valuations, perhaps dramatically, and is another factor explaining why banks are not lending enough into the productive economy.

The end result of all the trillions of dollars created to bail out the rich country financial sector is that neither governments, nor the central banks nor the financial corporations have changed. The United Kingdom remains in recession. The shock has at long last led even one of those responsible for the capitalism’s latest debacle, Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, to remark, “It is important that banks in receipt of public support are not encouraged to try to earn their way out of that support by resuming the very activities that got them into trouble in the first place….The sheer creative imagination of the financial sector to think up new ways of taking risk will in the end, I believe, force us to confront the ‘too important to fail’ question.”(6)

King’s ill-received statement of the obvious comes two whole years after the failure of a couple Bear Stearns controlled hedge funds in July 2007 that finally triggered the onset of a systemic collapse long-foretold. His remarks are a frank recognition of abysmal failure. But they are unlikely to have much impact in a system where King’s Deputy Governor, Charles Bean can be reported as feeling optimistic about so called “quantitative easing” – flooding banks with massive liquidity. The same day King’s remarks were reported, Bloomberg also reported Bean as having said, on October 13th, that “rising asset prices suggest” quantitive easing has had a “’significant’ impact and signaled optimism the economy had troughed.”(7)

The stunning foolishness of this is not just that two weeks later British government figures announced the country was still in recession. The frightening point of Bean’s quoted remarks is that the economic authorities of Europe and the United States very clearly still believe rising asset values are equivalent to productive economic growth, even while they glibly dismiss rising unemployment as “a lagging indicator”. In Europe, as in the US, political and economic authorities imitate Dr. Frankenstein, trying to put back together, as it was, the self-same rotten system that has just fallen so spectacularly apart.

The meaning of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas – ALBA

It is in that context that the Seventh ALBA Summit took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia.(8) Report and comment in both corporate media and in the neocolonial progressive media consistently ignore or downplay the significance of ALBA. Or when they acknowledge its importance, they tend to disparage its achievements, relevance and viability. While ALBA itself is comprised of countries with a population of just over 75 million, the countries in its sister regional agreement, Petrocaribe, have a total population of over 90 million. If one adds up the total population of countries participating in both Petrocaribe and ALBA, the total is over 114 million.(9)

The fundamental reason for ALBA’s successful development so far is that relatively small countries can only defend their interests if they unite. That is true in every sense. It may well be the case that the power and influence of Europe and the United States is in irreversible decline. But new quasi-imperialist menaces loom, from China and more immediately, from Brazil.

Countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador look at the experience of Mercosur and see that its development has been hampered by the domination of Brazilian big business. They have their own experiences of ruthless Brazilian corporate and government policies. They can also see that China is vacuuming up natural resources as voraciously as ever the old imperialist powers ever did. Only united will the ALBA countries be able to defend effectively their natural resources and their peoples.

One important aspect of the Cochabamba summit is that it may finally dampen futile attempts by smaller countries to prioritize working together with Brazil on continental integration. Very clearly the ALBA countries will prioritize their own institutions in preference to seeking links with a sclerotic Mercosur and a nascent Bank of the South, both dominated by the neo-liberal sympathies of Brazil’s ruling elite. Former Bolivian hydrocarbons minister, Andres Solis Rada has noted, “Brazil, by becoming an IMF creditor and increasing its voting share in the World Bank has become an associate of the oppressive nations strangling the nations they oppress.”(10)

ALBA’s integration strategy works on two tracks – the extraordinary wide-ranging policy commitments of ALBA itself and the less comprehensive energy and food security focus of Petrocaribe. The principal benefits of Petrocaribe for its member countries are improved cash-flow though access to oil supplies on preferential terms (half paid within 90 days and the balance at nominal interest over 20 years), increased investment in energy infrastructure – including renewable energy – and food security support.

Member countries of ALBA have access to a very much wider range of economic, social and cultural policy options. Alberto Guevara believes, “ALBA is the alternative model we are developing in Latin America and the Caribbean so that we integrate the family of peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean on the basis of different associative principles. I am talking about principles that have nothing to do with current principles in the context of the international financial community, that work unfairly in many cases – donations and so on.

In ALBA conditionalities affecting countries’ sovereignty do not exist. There are none. In ALBA the principle of self-determination is paramount. But we also have in ALBA principles like that of solidarity, real solidarity which is a disinterested solidarity aimed as helping those who have the least, so that they can reach a level of development as a country, as a nation as a people.

In ALBA you find the principle of complementarity. A principle that exists nowhere else in the world outside ALBA. It is a principle which in the first place recognizes the different relative development the peoples of our America have lived, in part thanks to those who colonized these peoples, who destroyed and stole our raw materials and murdered our indigenous peoples so as to build up the original capital accumulation that later formed world capitalism. That principle of complementarity is a new principle. It is a principle of justice. It is a principle of brotherhood.” (11)

Guevara’s lyrical account of ALBA is borne out by Nicaragua’s practical experience of ALBA’s benefits which are profuse. In terms of trade, Nicaragua’s exports to Venezuela increased from around US$8 million in 2007, the year Nicaragua joined ALBA, to over US$90 million currently in 2009. The increase is almost entirely in agricultural produce like beans, beef and dairy products. Nicaragua’s agricultural economy has turned around dramatically as a result of government led investment, largely funded by ALBA. The principle of complementarity means that Venezuela will accept payment in kind – in agricultural produce – equivalent to the cash price of its oil.

The investment necessary to develop Nicaragua’s agriculture in that way came both from the funds released by the concessionary terms of Petrocaribe oil purchases and from low-interest loans provided by Venezuela’s development bank. That transformation led to record exports in 2008, with a fall in 2009 projected at less than 5%. It has also meant that record production in the first semester has helped the government and producers cope much better than they might otherwise have done with the dramatic adverse effects of this year’s drought provoked by the climatic phenomenon, El Niño.

In terms of energy, the Nicaraguan-Venezuelan joint venture company Albanisa will be importing and storing all of Nicaragua’s oil requirement by the end of 2010. So Nicaragua will be independent of the giant transnational oil major Exxon which has always managed Nicaragua’s oil imports until now. In just two years, ALBA has provided an additional 290 megawatts to Nicaragua’s electrical generating capacity, liberating Nicaragua’s consumers from the spectre of the regular extended power cuts, month after month in 2006, resulting from the energy policies of 16 years of Washington Consensus imposed privatization and deregulation. Nicaragua’s daily electricity consumption is a little over 500 megawatts.

The concessionary terms of Nicaragua’s oil purchases from Venezuela have made possible subsidies to Nicaragua’s transport system that has protected public transport consumers and operators from the disruptive inflationary effects of oil price volatility. In Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, public transport users pay half what they might otherwise pay. Interurban bus prices have also been stable ever since the oil price shock of 2008. A key feature of ALBA’s program is the establishment of joint venture companies involving partnerships between the bloc’s member states. This is ALBA’s response to the depredations of rich country multinational corporations.

Infrastructure investment derived from ALBA includes a refinery and petrochemical complex scheduled for construction on Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast on which preparatory work has already begun. On the northern Atlantic Coast, reconstruction following Hurricane Felix continues, including improvements to the port at Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) and work advancing on the long-neglected main road linking Puerto Cabezas to the country’s Pacific Coast via Matagalpa. Five agro-industrial projects are planned for 2010 onwards. ALBA also funds nationwide housing and street-paving programmes.

The other main programmes made possible by ALBA in Nicaragua include medical facilities like the eye hospital in Ciudad Sandino which has attended tens of thousands of low income patients since it opened in 2007. ALBA funds Cuban medical brigades that cover the areas of the country least well served by Nicaragua’s medical system, especially the Atlantic Coast. Cultural and sports programmes have created opportunities for thousands of young Nicaraguans to pursue otherwise inaccessible courses of training and study. ALBA’s greatest achievement in the field of education has been the elimination of illiteracy in Nicaragua and Bolivia.

ALBA does all this just in Nicaragua. It has similar programmes and projects in train or planned in all its nine member countries, apart from the less diverse investments under the Petrocaribe framework in almost 20 countries. All of this is intended not to replace but rather to complement existing aid and cooperation programmes from Western Bloc countries. What it also does, though, is permit countries like Nicaragua to resist blatant aid and trade blackmail, as was clearly the case when the United States government cancelled Millenium Challenge Account funding earlier this year, under the false pretext of allegations of electoral fraud. The bulk of the amount concerned was replaced with funding from ALBA.

ALBA and Petrocaribe provide unprecedented stability to their member countries. But the United States, Canada and Europe persistently accuse Venezuela of destabilizing the region. Self-evidently, what they mean is that Venezuela destabilizes Western Bloc domination of the region, traditionally sustained by the neo-colonial mechanisms of aid, debt and unfair trade. An example of the challenge to traditional neo-colonial relationships is that the ALBA countries already have their own ALBA Bank.

At the Cochabamba summit this month, they took a crucial step towards greater coherency as an integrated regional economic community. That step was to set up a common unit of account for intra-regional trade – the Single System of Regional Compensation Payments (SUCRE). The SUCRE, which comes into effect in January 2010 is the first step towards a common currency. It means ALBA’s member countries – with a total population of over 75 million – will not need to purchase dollars in order to pay for imports – for example Venezuelan oil – from fellow member countries. This is another small but damaging blow to the US dollar’s status as the global reserve currency.

Henry C.K.Liu again, “post-Cold War global trade morphed into a new form of economic imperialism through which the strong advanced economies exploit the weak underdeveloped economies. This is accomplished by denying sovereign governments their right to deploy sovereign credit for national development and forced them to depend on foreign capital denominated in the fiat currency of the monetary hegemon.”

On October 17th 2009, in Cochabamba, the ALBA countries served notice that they intend to reclaim their sovereign right to deploy their own sovereign credit for national and regional development. But that is just one more reason for Western Bloc governments and corporate media to deploy a daily campaign of diplomatic and propaganda aggression against the ALBA countries, as they have done for years now. Three other fundamental reasons underlie the thoroughgoing cynicism and deceit of the United States government and its allies.

The first of those reasons can be seen even from the extremely bald account given here of ALBA’s impact on national and regional development. In that sphere, ALBA makes Western Bloc aid, trade and debt skulduggery look like what it is – a machinery of control and domination shamelessly designed to hold back the genuine sovereign development of peoples. ALBA offers an unanswerable challenge to the Western Bloc aid-debt-and-unfair-trade development model.

The issue of literacy is a damning instance of that challenge. ALBA programmes eliminated illiteracy in Nicaragua and Bolivia in just three years. Western Bloc development cooperation programmes have failed to match that achievement in countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador in decades. If one asks why that should be, the answer, clearly, is that they and their local allies, have no interest in doing so. The contrast reveals the United States and its allied countries’ statements about their commitment to reducing poverty as vapid rhetoric.

The second of the three reasons for Western Bloc aggression against the ALBA countries is that the ALBA countries punch well above their weight in foreign affairs. ALBA has stepped up promoting South-South cooperation in their relations not just with China and India but with countries like, for example, Algeria, Vietnam, Libya and Iran. Ecuador and Venezuela are both members of OPEC. ALBA’s example is likely to be an important theme at the important South-South Cooperation Conference scheduled for early December this year in Kenya.

The other ALBA countries are likely to follow Nicaragua’s lead and support Russia by recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two states that achieved independence from Georgia in 2008. Russia participates in ALBA meetings with observer status. On issues from Sri Lanka to Western Sahara to Palestine, ALBA countries follow their own non-aligned anti-imperialist agenda – an example Western Bloc countries are anxious to squash.

A third reason Western Bloc countries loath ALBA’s regional initiative is that the ALBA countries are genuinely committed to diminishing the effects of narcotics trafficking on their countries and have been very effective in doing so. This is unsettling for the United States government, in particular, whose international corporate finance sector partners – all those Primary Government Securities Dealers – depend heavily for their liquidity on the many trillions of dollars flushed year-round through secretive off-shore financial centres. Via these centres, hundreds of billions of dollars derived from the international narcotics business and other organized crime are laundered into the international finance system.

After over US$6bn of US taxpayers’ money has been invested in the bogus “war on drugs” in Colombia, cocaine exports from Colombia are as healthy as ever. Despite both the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror”, heroin exports from Afghanistan are at record levels. Now, with Plan Merida, the United States is boosting its military and security industries with supplies to Mexico – just as it has done in Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq – by means of yet another fake “war on drugs” initiative. Obviously, narcotics is one of the United States’ most important industries, satisfying insatiable consumer demand as well as providing vital economic benefits to both the United States financial services industry and its military and security based industries.

Asked in the interview quoted earlier if he thought US military expansionism was the inevitable corollary of domestic economic decline, Nicaragua Treasury Minister Alberto Guevara remarked, “History has shown us that always when there is a domestic crisis, the way out of it has been to reactivate the military-industrial complex. In all recent history, the war in Korea, the war in Iraq, in Afghanistan, all of them. Furthermore, the natural concept of war is that the final result has always been a sharing out of the world, so, in that sense, war may be the expression of economics at its maximum intensity.”

The US government has tacitly supported the military coup in Honduras in part because ousted President Manuel Zelaya passionately supported ALBA. The US State Department used Costa Rican President Oscar Arias as a proxy to facilitate a framework agreement permitting occasional bouts of spurious “dialogue” until the elections scheduled in Honduras for the end of November. Even so, violent conflict there seems inevitable. In Mexico, increased United States military support for the “war on drugs” charade theatens to deepen the already critical social and economic crisis under usurper President Felipe Calderon.

In Colombia, Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama is destabilizing the region by agreeing to establish five new US military bases in the country. Even Brazil, whose troops lead the military occupation of Haiti under UN auspices, has expressed disquiet. President Obama’s government has also agreed to install two new US military bases in Panama. His administration has also reactivated an important regional US radar and telecommunications listening facility in Costa Rica.

The US economy is a wreck, with unemployment unlikely to return even to pre-crisis levels for another seven or eight years. By way of response, President Obama, his corporate plutocrat backers and their Western Bloc allies, are clearly engaged in a double-or-quits policy of imperialist military expansionism. They are determined to use full-spectrum aggression against the ALBA countries. They deem militarist terror as the Western Bloc’s best chance of, as Liu puts it, forcing the region “to depend on foreign capital denominated in the fiat currency of the monetary hegemon.”

*************

Notes
1. The nine ALBA country’s met in Cochabamba Bolivia on October 16th and 17th. The summit declaration is here : http://tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/4108
2. “Money Markets and Commodity Markets. Part I: Money Markets – Integrity Deficit Has Its Price”, Henry C.K. Liu, http://www.henryckliu.com/page198.html
3. “Greenspan Forgets Where He Put His Asset Bubble:”, Caroline Baum, Bloomberg March 12th 2009
4. The full list of Primary Dealers as of July 27th 2009 was :
BNP Paribas Securities Corp ; Bank of America Securities LLC ; Barclays Capital Inc.; Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.; Citigroup Global Markets Inc.; Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC; Daiwa Securities America Inc.; Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.; Goldman, Sachs & Co.; HSBC Securities (USA) Inc.; Jefferies & Company, Inc.; J. P. Morgan Securities Inc.; Mizuho Securities USA Inc.; Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated; Nomura Securities International, Inc.; RBC Capital Markets Corporation; RBS Securities Inc.; UBS Securities LLC.
5. “Federal Reserve Power Unsupported by Credibility”, Henry C.K.Liu – http://www.henryckliu.com/page199.html
6. “Mervyn King launches blistering attack on £1tn banks bailout”, Ashley Seager and Jill Treanor, Guardian, October 21st 2009
7. “BOE More Likely to Expand Bond Purchases on GDP Slump (Update1)”, By Brian Swint and Jennifer Ryan, Bloomberg October 23rd 2009
8. Declaración de la VII Cumbre del ALBA–TCP, Cochabamba, Bolivia – 17 de octubre de 2009 – http://tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/4108
9. For comparison, Brazil’s population is around 190 million people, Russia has about 140 million, Japan 127 million, Britain 62 million, Germany 82 million.
10. “Brasil, el FMI y el Banco Mundial” Andrés Soliz Rada, Rebelión, 25-10-2009 – http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=93932
11. Entrevista con el Cro. Alberto Guevara, Ministro de Hacienda y Crédito Público de Nicaragua, 8 de octubre 2009 – http://www.tortillaconsal.com/alberto_guevara_8-10-09.html

*************

toni solo is based in Central America – see toni.tortillaconsal.com

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0910/S00237.htm

Toronto Star: Child slavery in Haiti no surprise

By admin, December 31, 2009 11:42 am

Child slavery in Haiti no surprise

Published On Thu Dec 31 2009

Re:Poor Haitian kids forced into slavery, Dec. 23

http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/744359

The reality of child slavery in Haiti cannot be separated from the economic and political priorities favoured by local elites, global institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and powerful countries such as the United States, Canada and France.

There is a link between many of these enslaved children, who came from the countryside, and the crippling of Haitian agriculture through the importation of subsidized rice, beans, corn, pork and sugar. Up until the 1980s, Haiti was self-sufficient in food production. However, it has been forced to severely cut tariffs to subsidized imports. This globalization-induced policy has impoverished the rural people and enriched a small cluster of Haitian families who own most of the country’s wealth.

Haiti’s children are vulnerable to child slavery because access to education is a pipe dream for most. Only 67 per cent and 20 per cent of eligible-age children are enrolled in primary and secondary schools, respectively. School fees of $70-$80 (U.S.) per year in a country with a per capita GDP of $480 are a critical factor in the under 50 per cent enrolment rate. Only 10 per cent of primary and secondary schooling is delivered by the Haitian government to its citizens.

Should it come as a surprise that Haiti’s children are now the victims of child slavery, sex tourism and sexual improprieties by some NGO personnel and UN peacekeepers?

Ajamu Nangwaya, Toronto

Marc Becker’s Testimonies from Delegation to Haiti

By admin, December 31, 2009 1:09 am

Marc Becker’s Testimonies from Delegation to Haiti

http://www.yachana.org/reports/haiti/blog.html

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Testimonies

We spent the entire day today at the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (the Bureau of International Advocates, a lawyers group linked with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti) gathering testimonies from a variety of people from social movement organizations, and we will return tomorrow for more. The testimonies ranged between moving, fascinating, informative, repetitive, and long-winded. Here are a couple main themes that emerged:

Most of the people we have talked to emphasize the importance of the return of Aristide to Haiti. Popular movement activists emphasize that under his government they had hope for better education and health care, and all of that is gone under the current government. Several people mentioned that aid that comes into the country never seems to trickle down to the people who need it and could use it. Aristide was the only person who cared about people. The opposition was not so much against Aristide as against the huge majority of people he represented. If the international community cared about Haiti, they would send Aristide back. The return of Aristide would change the lives of people, and he does not only have to be president to play that role.

Many people from popular movements are very critical of the UN occupation of Haiti since 2004, blaming them for human rights abuses including shooting civilians and sexually abusing young girls. A journalist from the newspaper Haiti Liberte (Haiti Liberty) complained that the UN mission only protects the interests of the wealthy while terrorizing the poor. Complicating the problem is the co-opted judicial system which holds dissidents in long detentions without a hearing as an excuse to keep them in jail. One person asked whether the UN mission was about peace or fear.

The role of Brazil in the UN mission indicates that president Lula da Silva appears to be ok with this pattern of human rights abuses. For these activists, it challenges a perception that he is of the left, but rather they have come to see him as fundamentally reactionary. His government is different from those of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or Fidel Castro in Cuba who govern for the people based on the ideals of freedom and liberty for Latin America. Rather, Brazil’s role in Haiti is motivated by powerful economic interests as they try to expand into new markets and solidify their role as the leading economic player in Latin America. Brazil, the journalist emphasized, is following the US, France, and Canada in becoming a new imperial power that forces their agenda on smaller countries.

Representatives from peasant groups described a situation of little agricultural technology and less government support for that sector even though Haiti remains a largely rural society. The agricultural economy is further undermined when aid agencies import cheap food for distribution. Often farmers will harvest fruit trees for charcoal to meet their immediate and urgent economic needs rather than allowing them to mature for their longer term food production. Such economic crises leads to deforestation, further ecological degradation, an inability for Haiti to feed itself, rural-urban migration, and increased levels of poverty and oppression.

Both peasant and labor groups emphasized that globalization creates conditions that makes it difficult to fight for better wages and living conditions. Private companies have cracked down on unions with persecutions and firings. Others have tried to co-opt unions into defending corporate interests. Sometimes this takes the form of drawing previous union activists into the government as a way to undermine their labor activism. Other times owners buy out labor leaders. As a result, since 2007 the Central of Haitian Workers (CTH) is no longer working on behalf of the workers. In fact, the UN occupation force cooperates with the bosses in undermining worker interests. A result is a decline in worker wages.

Informal market vendors blamed the current Preval government for burning down 30-40 market stalls. In the meantime, their operating costs have risen dramatically. The vendors have no place to complain, and the government does not provide help. Rather, the government implements policies that only benefit the interests of large corporations and their distribution networks. Neoliberal policies and privatization schemes leads to more suffering for marginalized people.

Several speakers repeatedly returned to the theme of while they are in favor of democratic elections, the process that is in place for February 28 is more of a selection rather than an election. They are against such “selections.” Preval does not remember who put him in power, and has taken a strong stance against the electoral interests of popular movements. Allowing these elections to proceed forward in this manner will only prove to advance Preval’s neoliberal agenda. Many activists are calling for a boycott of the election because they have not been included as part of the process. One activist asked us to tell the international community to stop the election because it will not help the Haitian people. Preval is once again establishing a system of slavery in Haiti.

One activist cautioned that Haiti was headed toward a bloodbath worse than what happened in the aftermath of the 2004 coup. Popular movements are not with the current government, and their level of frustration is rising. Another activist noted that his brother was killed just 2 days before the last election, leaving his 10 children in his care. He does not have the resources to care for the children, and is worried that he could also be a target of political violence in this election.

The final speaker concluded that it was important for us to come and listen to the stories of the poor in Haiti so that Obama can hear their stories.

posted by Marc at 7:01 PM

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cite Soleil

Cite Soleil is Haiti’s largest and most famous slum. When Cheryl found out we were visiting here she told me it was too dangerous, and we were crazy to go. I had mental images that it would be similar to Kibera, the largest and most notorious of Nairobi’s slums where sewage runs through the streets and walking in alone indeed could be suicidal. Instead, what we found was something more akin to the parts of Rio’s favelas where guides will take visitors on poverty tourism adventures. The streets of Cite Soleil were paved and society seems well organized. Even Los Banados, the area of slums along the river on the edge of Auncion, were rougher than this. Later Kevin tells us that there are worse parts of Cite Soleil, that we’ll visit those on Sunday. Where we were today was one of the better areas.

We start with a visit with Mythro Philistin, the coordinator of former president Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party in Cite Soleil, and a parliamentary candidate for the Lavalas break off Parti Solidarite. We meet at Radio Boukman, a community radio station, and talk a bit with the station manager, but mostly this was just a convenient place to meet local activists.

Mythro raises common themes that we will hear throughout our time in Cite Soleil. The arrival of the UN in the aftermath of the ouster of Aristide in 2004 only made things worse. Many houses are riddled with bullet holes from their attacks. More children are dying of malnutrition, there is no money for schools, there is a lack of a political will to improve the situation. This is all a result of a significant gap between what the UN claims it is doing in Haiti and what it actually accomplishes.

Activists raised a common complaint that the government has excluded Lavalas from the upcoming February 28 legislative elections. Current president Rene Preval was an ally of Aristide who originally emerged out of Lavalas, but he is an opportunist who is just co-opting the situation to entrench himself in power. They called on the international community to accompany them in their denunciations of these abuses. Mythro’s Parti Solidarite is an attempt to create an end run around the exclusion of Lavalas in the elections. As has become increasingly the case, social movements do not want to be excluded from the electoral process.

Women’s coordinator Florence complains that Preval hasn’t done anything to improve the situation, and that women are the most vulnerable and as a result the worst victims of his government. International aid never filters down to the grassroots; NGOs donate materials, but people never receive them. It is important for us to listen and hear the voice of the people. Youth Popular Power coordinator Rene Civil emphasizes that their opposition to Preval is not personal, but it is against his increasingly dictatorial tendencies to concentrate wealth and power through policies of privatization of resources. In contrast, Lavalas has a vision of social justice, equality, and better living for all. Whereas he was in Aristide’s first government, now he is attempting to implement the policies of the coup government.

We then meet with members of of the Committee for Popular Mobilization Fanmi Lavalas, Cite Soliel. The secretary begins the discussions by tracing their history back to the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines in the slave revolt that led to Haitian independence in 1804. After Dessalines’ death in 1806, no one similarly inspired people until 1990 when Aristide emerged as a new leader that gave them a new voice and a hope for a better future.

Committee members complained that delegations rarely come to Cite Soliel to hear their stories, but that it is important for us to listen to them. They emphasized their strong support for Aristide, and their primary demand that he be allowed to return from his exile in South Africa. When he was president, they emphasized, at least we had jobs and healthcare. He brought life, but now all they face is death. Even if they were offered jobs and riches they would still not drop their primary demand for the return of Aristide. His return would inspire political stability and economic growth.

Another theme running through these meetings is that activists in Cite Soliel expected the situation to improve with the election in Obama in the United States. In fact, they had an Obama election sticker in Haitian Creole on the wall. But, they complained, Haitians didn’t understand why Obama was so slow in making changes. As the first African-American president in the United States, Obama owes something to Haiti. (I, of course, would retort that Obama is also white, and is as adherent to the interests of capital as the 43 US presidents before him, and most of Haiti’s Afro-descendant presidents have not done much for their country either; Obama’s race does not automatically make him more responsive to the needs of the people.)

In the afternoon we visit the Ste Clare Parish feeding program that Father Jean-Juste had set up with the support of a “What If” foundation Margaret set up in California. Some of our delegation members knew Jean-Juste and were deeply impressed with his politics and commitment to the poor. Jean-Juste was imprisoned twice on political charges, and died earlier this year from cancer that some say it was brought on by his imprisonment. The program feeds 800 kids a day, as well as about 400 adults. A constant theme throughout the presentation was that we need help we need help we need help, and the meeting ended with repeated and fairly direct calls for material support. They tried to frame the project as showing people how to fish rather than giving people fish, but I did not see it as much of an empowerment project. Rather, their calls for someone with a good heart to fund their project reminded me of Dom Helder’s comment that when he fed the poor they called him a saint, but when he asked why there were poor people they called him a communist.

A lot of questions run through my mind that are quite broader than the delegation’s focus on the current human rights situation in Haiti. Is Haiti part of Latin America? Coming from Ghana barely two weeks ago, my mind is naturally drawn toward parallels with Africa. The country seems much more functional than my previous images and stereotypes had led me to believe. Sitting on top of the Matthew 25 guest house at nite, the soft tropical breezes are very calming. And we’re surrounded by trees. I had been told that due to extensive deforestation largely due to the harvesting of wood for cooking fires, no trees survived in Haiti. How many more inaccurate mental images do I have?

I’m uploading more pictures to http://picasaweb.google.com/marcbecker2/haiti/. Stuart is also blogging at http://vancouverhaiti.blogspot.com/. I assume other delegation members are writing stuff as well, and I’ll post links as I get them.

posted by Marc at 6:23 PM

Monday, December 28, 2009

Arrivals

I arrived in Port-au-Prince this afternoon on time after almost missing my connection in O’Hare because American Airlines can never seem to run the flight from Madison on time. I’m at the front of the plane on the flight from Miami, and I zip through immigration and customs at Port-au-Prince and am out of the airport before the people from Matthew 25 arrive to pick me up. A redcap has a Matthew 25 badge and calls a car that just pulls up to tell him that I’m here. I expect a Sister to pick me up, but instead a man is driving the car. We take off on the airport road but it is blocked with heavy traffic, so we turn down very bumpy back streets. I wonder if this is an elaborate rouse to kidnap, rob, and kill me. How hard would it be to print up a badge and call someone who pretends to be from the place where I am staying? They would run scams like that in Africa; would that do that in Haiti? But Lonely Planet doesn’t mention these types of scams. Am I too naive and trusting, or too skeptical and cynical about people’s intentions?

Arriving in Haiti feels like I’m back in Ghana, except that Brazilian soldiers from the UN peacekeeper mission are crawling all over the airport. Going from Ghana’s hot, humid tropical weather to Wisconsin’s freezing cold winter, and back to Haiti’s hot, humid tropical summer is a nasty shock to my system.

With my arrival in Haiti, I now have only one country in Latin America left to visit: the Dominican Republic, on the other side of this island of Hispaniola. I hope to visit at some point, but not this trip. And with that introduction and my arrival our delegation is complete and it’s time to get to work! Tomorrow we’re going to Cite Soleil to investigate reports of a UN peacekeeper mission massacre.

posted by Marc at 4:19 PM

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Setting up the blog

In all of my travels in Latin America, only two countries remain that I have not visited: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Years ago my cousin Paul urged me to visit Haiti as it provides a very different face for Latin America. As I slowly began to finish my check list of Latin American countries, I became more and more interested in visiting the country. In my teaching, I grew increasingly fascinated with the history of the Haitian slave revolt and its aftermath.

For a while, political unrest made visits to the country a risky endeavor. As things calmed down, first Wiren and then Cheryl traveled to the island–but neither took me with them. I began to look for a time and a way to travel myself.

Coming less than two week after my return from a semester in Ghana, visiting Haiti will come at both a good time and a bad time. Such quick turn arounds can be exhausting, and not leaving proper time to process one experience before launching on another can diminish the value of both.

On the other hand, living in Africa has heightened my interest in visiting the most African of the American republics. While in Ghana, I have reflected on the parallels with Ecuador, and I am curious what those with Haiti will be like. Haiti ranks 149 in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI), the lowest of the American republics but at 152 Ghana is still a couple places lower. On the other hand, Ghana has a relatively good Gini coefficient of .43, in the same range as the United States and Venezuela (but well below Denmark and Norway), whereas Haiti is the most unequal country in the Americas with a Gini coefficient of .60.

What is the legacy of French rule, a successful revolution, an attempt to rebuild the country in the face of overwhelming international isolation, and the legacy of authoritarian and exclusionary ruling structures? What is the best role that solidarity movements can play in the face of Haiti’s complex recent political history? What can we learn from this most unique of countries? These are the types of questions with which I travel, and the types of things I hope to learn.

And with this trip, only the other half of Hispaniola, where European colonization began, remains on my check off list.

posted by Marc at 10:22 AM

Dead Aid: More Kool Aid; Critique of Dead Aid and Dambiso Moyo

By admin, December 30, 2009 8:44 pm

Dead Aid: More Kool Aid

Submitted by C. Uzondu on Tue, 06/16/2009 – 00:48

http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/dead-aid-more-kool-aid

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dead aid and kool aidby C. Uzondu
Dambiso Moyo pounds the talk show circuit proclaiming that foreign aid is Africa’s worst problem. Her prescription: heavy doses of capitalism – as if the continent doesn’t have enough of it: “Shell in the Niger delta, Canada’s Banro Corporation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Vodafone in Ghana, China’s NPOC in the Sudan, and Debeers in South Africa are all capitalist enterprises in neo-colonial states that never destroyed the colonial-capitalist state apparatus they ‘inherited’ from their colonial masters.” Moyo used to work for the World Bank and Goldman Sachs, and it shows.
Dead Aid: More Kool Aid
by C. Uzondu
Moyo argues that Africa needs more capitalism.”
Dambisa Moyo is hot. Western commercial media salivates as the Harvard and Oxford (giving her instant validation) trained Zambian speaks the unspeakable. Her book Dead Aid is the rave, a New York Times bestseller. Already she has been named by Times magazine as one of the 100 most influential people. Her fame rests on a simple argument: Aid is hurting Africa and it needs to stop.
I wish the hype would die a quick death.
Here is why. Dead Aid is more Kool Aid, dangerously popular and dangerously unhealthy.Let me be clear. When I say Dead Aid is like Kool Aid, I don’t mean that there is nothing of value in the book. Instead, I am questioning just who exactly this book is of value to. Moyo argues that this book is written in the interest of Africans. I cannot dispute what is in her heart. I can and will raise some questions about this book.
First, let me give credit where it is due; let me state what Moyo got right. Yes, aid to Africa has not brought development, and aid cannot be the basis of development. Correctly, Moyo notes the dependency induced by aid. Moyo is right in critiquing celebrity culture. If she can shut up Bono and others that have appropriated the right to speak on behalf of Africans, we will be eternally grateful. Moyo is right to critique the almost incessant production of Africa as tragedy. The Western media’s focus on corruption, disease, poverty, and war, what she calls the four horseman of African apocalypse, seem to be more about shoring up Western sense of superiority than any real concern with lives of Africans. Please, Dambisa Moyo go on … shut them up too.
But now we must part ways.
Dead Aid is more Kool Aid, dangerously popular and dangerously unhealthy.”
Moyo starts from a peculiar assumption. She seems to think that aid was truly designed to help Africa. What if we start from a different assumption? What if we assume that “aid” was/is a technique of power, a mechanism of control? After all, we know that the word “aid” is the wrong word to use. Let’s imagine that a family loses their home in a fire. They are given money by a local NGO to rebuild their home and lives. They will have to repay the money with interest at some time in the future. Would you describe this money as aid or as a loan? How much aid goes back to the donor to purchase their goods and pay their consultants? The gift of “aid” from the West is the gift of debt.
When we understand “aid” and the debt trap it creates as a mechanism of control we understand why the West continues its “giving”: they take much more in return.
Let’s accept for the moment that “aid” is given with no intentions to establish relations of domination and control. There are other questions we must ask: What kind of “aid” is provided? Is it military aid to train soldiers and police in torture and repression so they can better protect the interest of Western capital? (Think about Africom and the ongoing training of Nigerian military by the US to curb “terrorism” in the Niger Delta).
What are the conditions attached to “aid”? Consider the Bush administration’s Presidents Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR). Critics contend that PEPFAR compels recipients of funding to purchase the more expensive US made anti-retroviral medication as opposed to cheaper generic medication. According to Catherine Caufield, in the early 90s the US gave about $1.94 billion to the World Bank. The return was more than 10 times that amount for US businesses. What the “donors” give with the left hand they snatch back, and then some, with the right hand.
The gift of ‘aid’ from the West is the gift of debt.”
So, I am with Moyo in one sense: “aid” is deadly. Then we part ways. An analysis that starts from the premise that “aid” was designed to bring about “development” has limited utility; it ignores the imperial context of “aid.” To ignore imperialism, especially when the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (should we add Pakistan?) demonstrate that even the most explicit aspects of imperialism remain central to our political times, is profoundly naïve or disingenuous. To ignore imperialism is extremely dangerous.
By ignoring imperialism Moyo reinforces the dominant tendency to localize all of Africa’s challenges. This is not new. Much writing on Africa reduces Africa’s challenges to the lack of “good governance,” “transparency,” and “democracy.” Of course, Africans want democracy, transparency, and good governance. This is precisely what the struggle against colonialism and contemporary struggles against neo-colonialism are about. But will the end of corruption mean that Africa will suddenly control the global trade in diamonds? Or the end to the massive subsidies the US and the UK provide to their agricultural multinational corporations?
Moyo presents other dangers.
Moyo, like another “rock star” on the global stage, has the ability to gain the support of her own. For one, her aggressive adversarial style pleases us, especially as she verbally kicks the ass of her usually white male adversaries (the lords of development). Stephen Lewis is perhaps her most recent victim. Moyo is appealing because she is a critic of the whiteness of “aid.” She does not shy away from revealing white arrogance and white paternalism all of which are grounded in global white supremacy. So, her arguments resonate with those of us tired of the West’s claim to superiority, which is almost always embedded in their “save the Africans” missions. But this justifiable critique of whiteness is also what makes Moyo so dangerous. If we have not already been convinced by the simple logic of her “We must do for self” argument, we are attracted to what is a partial critique of white supremacy as it is manifested in “aid” and “development.” But is this sufficient for us to support Moyo’s proposed solutions?
By ignoring imperialism Moyo reinforces the dominant tendency to localize all of Africa’s challenges.”
Moyo’s solution is capitalism. What she argues is that Africa needs more capitalism. She desires a vibrant bond market in Africa. But Africa has had capitalism? This is what pried the Orange Free State from the mass murderous grasp of King Leopold and opened it up for the rest of the West to pillage. Africa has capitalism. Shell in the Niger delta, Canada’s Banro Corporation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Vodafone in Ghana, China’s NPOC in the Sudan, and Debeers in South Africa are all capitalist enterprises in neo-colonial states that never destroyed the colonial-capitalist state apparatus they “inherited” from their colonial masters. Will Moyo’s bond markets change this?
Also, let us not conveniently ignore the fact that trade liberalization, the privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulation of financial markets and labor markets have done more to place the wealth of Africa’s peoples in the hands of foreign corporations, and some crumbs for their domestic collaborators, than to positively change the majority of African peoples quality of life. Let us not be confused, Africa knows capitalism. It is just that “primitive accumulation,” accumulation by dispossession and plunder, remains the dominant and preferred form of capitalism imposed on Africa.
Let me conclude by briefly responding to this question: whose interest does Dead Aid serve? Can it serve the interests of African peoples to the extent that it energizes social justice movements that aim to hold respective African states accountable first and foremost to the human beings with their colonial borders? Because the audience to whom Dead Aid is addressed is not the African masses, this is unlikely.
Can Dead Aid serve the interest of the humanitarian-human rights-academic-industrial complex, which seems to be one of Dead Aid’s targets? It may seem paradoxical, but the answer is yes. “Aid” will not stop; it will be worked to make it more “sustainable.” It is important to remember that an anti-democratic institution like the World Bank has increasingly used NGO’s to do its under-development work in Africa. Therefore, as long as the WB and the IMF are in business, so too will the NGOs be in business. Moyo’s Dead Aid will surely serve as a catalyst to help the humanitarian-human rights-academic-industrial complex to reinvent itself. Indeed, we can expect that the new “aid” will come with greater intrusiveness. The same way that “welfare” in the US deliberately fails to empower “recipients” towards self-determination and routinely dehumanizes them, so too will revamped “aid” continue to undermine African self-determination.
Dead Aid serves capitalist imperialism because it absolves it yet again from responsibility for the misery, death, and violence that is has imposed on humanity.”
Can Dead Aid serve capitalist imperialism? I understand that Moyo may simply be trying to open a space where Africa can take control of what is within its realm of control. Her argument is the well known “personal responsibility” argument. There is some truth to it. Still, the “personal responsibility” argument, polluted as it is with neoliberalism, gets us only so far, because it overemphasizes agency and erases away structure. Therefore, right-wing imperialists are empowered to attack “aid” as they have always done. And the (not as far-right) liberal imperialist will feel good that they tried to save Africans from ourselves. Some will accept that maybe their far-right friends were correct. Others will retain their belief in their white man’s (and woman’s) burden, and continue the mission.
More critically, Dead Aid serves capitalist imperialism because it absolves it yet again from responsibility for the misery, death, and violence that is has imposed on humanity. So when I reflect on the fact that Moyo worked for the World Bank and Goldman Sachs and that financial capital is the dominant sector of capital today, then it seems that Dead Aid serves as an ideological attack on “the competition” – the “development aid” industry. Who will be the primary beneficiaries of the bond market that Moyo advocates? In Dead Aid the agency of the “free market” is served as Africa’s only hope. Granted, Dead Aid does not aspire to join Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, but it does claim to be interested in the lives of non-elite Africans. However, since it ignores the structural force of neoliberal/neo-colonial capitalist imperialism it certainly is not a meaningful tool to challenge global apartheid.

C. Uzondu can be contacted at nalsoja@yahoo.com.

éclaration du Réseau de solidarité Canada Haiti

By admin, December 30, 2009 10:30 am

Déclaration du Réseau de solidarité Canada Haiti

December 30th, 2009 by CHAN | Posted in Uncategorized |

HAITI : Sur le chemin des élections douteuses

Les Nations Unies affirment qu’il y a de bonnes raisons pour écarter le plus grand parti politique haïtien des prochaines joutes électorales

Position du Réseau de solidarité Canada Haïti

Le 28 décembre 2009.- Le Réseau de solidarité Canada Haïti exprime sa profonde inquiétude quant à la décision arrêtée par le Conseil Électoral Provisoire d’Haïti (CEP) d’exclure sous de fallacieux prétextes le parti Fanmi Lavalas des prochaines élections législatives. Ces élections devront se tenir selon le calendrier officiel le 28 février 2010. En effet, et pour respecter les prescrits de la Loi fondamentale haïtienne, des élections sont requises pour combler les sièges vacants au Sénat et à la Chambre des députés.

Selon plusieurs rapports de presse, plus d’une douzaine de partis et regroupements politiques légalement constitués et qui devraient normalement participer à la prochaine compétition, ont été déclarés hors-jeu.

Le 16 décembre 2009, des milliers  d’Haïtiens ont participé à une vibrante manifestation pour protester avec énergie contre l’exclusion de Fanmi Lavalas. La docteure Maryse Narcisse membre du conseil exécutif de ce parti déclarait à l’Agence Reuters, “Les autorités de ce pays projettent avec un cynisme consommé d’organiser en février 2010 une gigantesque mascarade, car il n’y aura pas d’élections, mais bien une sélection.”

Déjà, plusieurs mouvements de protestation, émanant des organisations populaires, comme le tout nouveau Rassemblement des Organisations pour le changement (ROC) se dessinent à l’horizon.

Pour justifier son infâme décision, le CEP soutient que le mandat d’enregistrement des candidats et soumis par le représentant national (leader) de Fanmi Lavalas, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, qui est en exil en Afrique du Sud est loin d’être authentique. Pour être clair, le mandataire a déposé un faux au CEP. En réalité, le parti Lavalas a effectivement soumis l’original du mandat authentifié par un notaire haïtien conformément à la législation du pays. De plus, le président Aristide a fait parvenir directement au CEP une télécopie du mandat et confirmé son authenticité dans une rare et longue entrevue accordée à Radio-Solidarité de Port-au-Prince.

Non sans une certaine ironie, un des partis politiques agréés par le CEP se trouve être le Front pour la Reconstruction Nationale du fameux seigneur de guerre Guy Philippe. Ce paramilitaire qui a conduit la rébellion de 2004, fait face à une accusation par une Cour de justice américaine de trafic de drogue et de blanchiment d’argent depuis 2005.

C’est donc la seconde fois cette année que Fanmi Lavalas est écarté d’une élection par le CEP. En effet, la première éviction eût lieu à l’occasion des législatives tenues en deux tours avril et juin 2009 pour le renouvellement d’un tiers du Sénat (11 sièges). L’électorat a scrupuleusement suivi le mot d’ordre du boycottage de ces joutes lancé par Fanmi Lavalas. Tous les observateurs nationaux et étrangers s’accordent pour estimer autour de 3% le taux de participation. Malgré ce déficit de légitimité, les sénateurs “élus” provenant majoritairement de la plateforme électorale du président Préval l’Espwa, ont été assermentés.

Fanmi Lavalas, fondé en 1997, est de loin le parti politique le plus représentatif d’Haïti, après son écrasante victoire à la législative et présidentielle de l’année 2000. Il a été consacré dernièrement par Reuters comme”la force politique la plus populaire d’Haïti:” Cette opération bricolée dans la confusion, l’arrogance et l’exclusion qu’on appelle abusivement élection en Haïti, ressemble à s’y méprendre à ce qu’on a vu récemment au Honduras et en Afghanistan et qui a pour but de rendre acceptable et politiquement correct les coups de force.

Toute forme d’exclusion dans une élection qui est par essence une compétition saine et loyale où la majorité exprime ses choix ne fera que perpétuer cette situation d’illégalité et d’inconstitutionnalité dans laquelle se trouve le pays depuis février 2004 et fragiliser encore plus les institutions.

Rappelons pour mémoire que le 29 février 2004, le président Aristide a été renversé par un coup d’état dirigé par les paramilitaires de Guy Philippe soutenu par les forces armées des États-Unis de la France et du Canada. Les forces spéciales américaines embarquèrent le président Aristide pour l’exil, tous les élus haïtiens furent révoqués, persécutés emprisonnés et les militants Lavalas impitoyablement massacrés par les forces occupantes et par le régime intérimaire de Gérard Latortue. L’élite économique du pays dont la rapacité est proverbiale paniqua devant les timides avancées des politiques de justice sociale préconisées par Lavalas comme le salaire minimum. Elle prit carrément peur et sa réponse fut comme en 1991 rapide brutale et sanglante.

Haïti est actuellement occupée par une force de 10.000 membres des Nations Unies composée de militaires et de policiers communément appelée MINUSTHA.

Selon la constitution de 1987, le Conseil Électoral est une institution permanente et indépendante chargée d’organiser et de contrôler toute opération électorale. Il comprend neuf membres émanant d’une liste soumise par les assemblées départementales, trois sont choisis par l’Éxécutif, trois par l’Assemblée nationale et trois par la cour de Cassation. Or, le Conseil Électoral actuel est un organisme provisoire légalement limité, car formé par le président Préval avec les représentants de différents secteurs de la société.

Sans trop de surprises, la MINUSTAH a approuvé les élections de juin 2009 et bien sûr, le Canada, la France et les États-Unis. Il faut savoir que ces trois pays avec l’Union Europénne ont contribué à fournir une somme de $12 millions pour les organiser et un montant de $15 millions est prévu pour la sélection de 2010. Avec le sérieux qui le caractérise, l’expert indépendant des Nations Unies pour les droits humains en Haïti, Michel Forst, lâcha le 30 novembre 2009 devant la presse ébahie cette formule pour le moins provocante, “Le CEP ne peut avoir que de bonnes raisons pour exclure un parti politique du processus.”

Quant au premier ministre haïtien Jean-Max Bellerive, dans une entrevue du 18 décembre 2009, pince- sans-rire, il rajoutait, “le CEP a expliqué ses raisons, je crois qu’elles sont très bonnes, car sur le plan juridique elles sont non seulement conformes à la loi, mais cohérentes avec la mission du conseil.”

Les signataires de cette communication demandent instamment et dans la plus grande urgence à tous de poser en solidarité avec le peuple haïtien les gestes suivants:

1. Appelez, écrivez à vos élus, au ministère des Affaires étrangères et à la MINUSTHA pour leur demander de ne pas endosser le processus électoral antidémocratique mis en place par le gouvernement haïtien. Leur demander également que le parti Fanmi Lavalas soit autorisé à participer à ces joutes électorales qui doivent être libres et honnêtes (pour le Canada voir une liste jointe).

2.-Demandez au gouvernement haïtien de faciliter le retour du président Aristide en Haïti et prendre toutes les mesures pour assurer sa sécurité.

3.- Finalement, demandez que l’aide économique étrangère promise à Haïti pour reconstruire son économie ravagée ainsi que ses infrastructures soit disponible dans l’immédiat, car, moins de 5% des $760 millions promis à la conférence internationale des bailleurs tenue aux Nations Unies en avril 2009, ont été effectivement décaissés. Des montants encore plus importants devront être mis à la disposition d’Haïti afin de réparer  les dégâts incommensurables provoqués par le coup d’État de 2004.

Pour plus d’informations sur les élections haïtiennes de février 2010 et sur Haïti veillez consulter les sites suivants:

* http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/other-view/v-print/story/1376563.html

* http://canadahaitiaction.ca

* Téléphonez à Haïti Solidarité BC (Vancouver) 778 58 5179 ou encore Toronto Haiti Action Network 416 731 2325.

Concern voiced in Canada over flawed election to take place in Haiti

By admin, December 30, 2009 10:29 am

Concern voiced in Canada over flawed election to take place in Haiti

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–December 29, 2009

The Canada Haiti Action Network is expressing grave concern over the party registration process that has taken place in Haiti in advance of a national election set for February 28, 2010. Haiti will hold elections on that date for 98 of 99 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and ten seats of its 30-seat Senate.

Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council issued its list of approved parties and candidates in late November. The Fanmi Lavalas party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ruled off the ballot. Some 12 other, smaller parties were also ruled ineligible.

At a protest rally attending by thousands of Lavalas supporters in the capital city, Port au Prince, on December 16, Dr. Maryse Narcisse of the party’s executive council told the Reuters news network , “There will be no election in February, there will be a selection. What the authorities are planning is really a big farce.” More protests are promised by popular organizations.

In justifying its decision, the electoral council, a body appointed by Haiti’s president, said that a registration mandate sent by Aristide, who lives in exile in South Africa, is not authentic. In fact, the party presented an original mandate authenticated by a Haitian notary that complies with Haitian law. Aristide sent a fax of the mandate directly to the CEP and confirmed its authenticity in a rare and lengthy interview on Port au Prince’s Radio Solidarité.

This is the second time this year that the CEP has barred Fanmi Lavalas from an election. The first banning occurred in the election to eleven of the thirty seats in Haiti’s Senate that was held in two rounds in April and June of 2009.

Fanmi Lavalas is, “still considered the most popular political force in [Haiti]” (Reuters, Nov. 25th, 2009). It was founded in 1997 and won an overwhelming victory in the election of 2000. Aristide and Haiti’s other institutions of elected government were overthrown in February, 2004 by a combined paramilitary coup and foreign military intervention.

The 10,000 member United Nations military and police mission in Haiti has signalled its approval of the election exclusion. So, too, has Haiti’s Prime Minister, Jean Max Bellerive. The latter visited Canada earlier this month and met with at least two federal government ministers. A statement by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada on the meetings made no reference to the upcoming election.

Presently, a human rights investigative delegation is in Haiti for ten days. Participants include San Francisco-based journalist Kevin Pina and two members of the Canada Haiti Action Network.

For the full statement of the Canada Haiti Action Network, see http://canadahaitiaction.ca/?p=988 . The Canada Haiti Action Network conducts information and awareness programs concerning Haiti in ten cities across Canada. View the group’s website at: http://canadahaitiaction.ca/ . For further information on this news release or for interviews with eyewitnesses in Haiti, phone Roger Annis in Vancouver at 778 858 5179 or Niraj Joshi in Toronto at 416 731 2325.
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Kenney’s double-speak on KAIROS; Text of his speech at anti-Semitism conference

By admin, December 30, 2009 9:20 am

Kenney’s double-speak

Two weeks ago today, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney delivered a speech in Jerusalem at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. Initially, the speech went unnoticed and unreported back home. But after it was posted on the Web, his words began ricocheting around Canada.

In various reports and commentaries in the Canadian media, Kenney has been accused of falsely labelling KAIROS, a social justice group with ties to a wide range of Canadian churches, as anti-Semitic and of boasting that was the reason the government cut off its funding.

In a letter to the Star last week, Kenney denied both charges. “I did not accuse KAIROS of being anti-Semitic,” he wrote. Rather, he said in his speech that KAIROS took a “leadership role” in the boycott campaign against Israel.

As for why KAIROS’s funding was cut off, Kenney wrote: “While I disagree with the nature of KAIROS’s militant stance toward the Jewish homeland, that is not the reason their request for taxpayer funding was denied.” Rather, the decision was made because KAIROS did not meet Ottawa’s “current priorities” regarding foreign aid programs.

Let’s stack this denial up against the speech itself.

It is true that Kenney did not explicitly call KAIROS anti-Semitic in his speech. But the speech was delivered at a conference on anti-Semitism, and in it Kenney lamented the growth of anti-Semitism in Canada. As a result, he declared: “We have articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.”

What follows in the speech is a catalogue of groups that have been cut off by the government, including the Canadian Arab Federation, the Canadian Islamic Congress, and KAIROS. “We have defunded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott,” said Kenney. “And we’re receiving a lot of criticism for these decisions . . . But we believe that we’ve done these things for the rights reasons, and we stand by these decisions.”

So was KAIROS cut off due to its “leadership role” in the boycott or to Ottawa’s new priorities for foreign aid?

It seems that Kenney is guilty of the classic political sin: saying one thing in one place and something different to another audience. Unfortunately for him, it is hard to get away with that in this Internet era.

Text of Jason Kenney speech

Text of a speech by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem on December 16, 2009

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/743930–text-of-jason-kenney-speech

Shalom. Thank you very much. It is an honour to be here to participate in this Global Forum on Anti-Semitism. Let me begin by commending the Government of Israel for hosting this and bringing us together for this, one of the most critical issues in the world today.

Let me also begin by acknowledging and thanking the large Canadian delegation for their presence and participation here, including my parliamentary colleagues, the Honourable Irwin Cotler, a former Minister of Justice and one of the founding members of the IACCA, Scott Reid, Chairman of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights and Co-Chair of the Canadian Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat anti-Semitism, together with his colleague, the other Co-Chair, Mario Silva, a member of parliament from Toronto, who’s done tremendous work on these issues. In addition, we have here assembled, the leadership of most of the major Canadian Jewish organizations and I’d like to thank them for participating.

Shortly after he came to office as Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper said that unfortunately in some countries, hatred of the Jews is still preached from religious pulpits and still proclaimed from political podiums.

“There are still people who would perpetrate another Holocaust if they could. That’s why we must resist the error of viewing the Holocaust as a strictly historical event. It’s not good enough for politicians to stand before you and say they remember and mourn what happened over six decades ago. They must stand up to those who advocate the destruction of Israel and its people today. They must be unequivocal in their condemnation of anti-Semitic despots, terrorists and fanatics, because those who attack Israel and those who sponsor such attacks do not seek merely to gain some leverage or to alter some boundary or to right some wrong.”

He said, “they seek what they and those like them, have always sought, the destruction of Israel and the destruction of the Jewish people.” Why? “A thousand complicated rationalizations, but only one simple reason: because the Jews are different, because the Jews are not like them. And because Israel is different and alone in a complicated part of the world, it is too easy to embrace the rationalizations and to ignore the truth. But our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada because, as the last World War showed us, hate fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all and must be resisted.”

What is this fanaticism, this hatred to which Prime Minister Harper referred?

Well he saw it firsthand two weeks ago in visiting Mumbai during a trade mission to India when he went and paid his respects at Nariman House, the Chabad-Lubavitch House in Mumbai, the scene of a terrible massacre committed against Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka in November of last year.

Almost at the same time that Prime Minister Harper was visiting Chabad House in Mumbai, anti-Semitic fanatics in his home city, my home city of Calgary, Alberta were spray painting anti-Semitic graffiti on the Jewish Community Centre, Jewish homes, on public transit installations and indeed, spray painting swastikas on our city’s Holocaust memorial. Some of this graffiti called for the end to the Israeli genocide in Gaza — “Stop the Israeli genocide in Gaza.”

What Prime Minister Harper witnessed in Mumbai, what happened at the same time in Calgary, were practical expressions of the new anti-Semitism. Even though Canada is celebrated around the world as being a successful model of mutual coexistence and tolerance, we too have seen a troubling increase in incidents of anti-Semitism. B’Nai Brith Canada publishes the authoritative registry of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada. In 2008, they received reports of 1,135 incidents of anti-Semitic instances, the highest number recorded in 28 years of the study, an increase of 8.9% over 2007.

Statistics Canada reports that 15% of all hate motivated crimes target Jews who only constitute 1% of our country’s population- and that two thirds of hate crimes that are targeting religious communities were targeting members of Canada’s Jewish community.

So how have we addressed these growing incidents of anti-Semitism? Well first of all, on the domestic level, our government has worked with the Jewish community to begin a program of recognizing our own history of official anti-Semitism. Before and during the Second World War, Canada imposed immigration restriction measures which denied access to our country of European refugees. Most notoriously in our decision, in 1938, to refuse to accept the M.S. St. Louis as a refugee ship. We’ve launched a $2.5 million commemorative fund to work with organizations to understand better research and educate future generations about the hatred which underscored those policies.

We’ve launched a fund to provide assistance to upgrade security at vulnerable institutions in the Jewish and other communities and have faced vandalism or threats. And now we’ve been able to work with the community to upgrade security at dozens of Hebrew schools, synagogues and community centres.

We have articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. What does this mean? It means that we eliminated the government funding relationship with organizations like for example, the Canadian Arab Federation, whose leadership apologized for terrorism or extremism, or who promote hatred, in particular anti-Semitism.

We have ended government contact with like-minded organizations like the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose President notoriously said that all Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for assassination. We have defunded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott. And we’re receiving a lot of criticism for these decisions. I can’t recall how many times I’ve been sued for some of the decisions that we have taken, but we believe that we’ve done these things for the right reasons and we stand by these decisions.

We have shifted our program of multiculturalism, which is our programmatic approach to integration and to pluralism, to focus precisely on integration towards liberal democratic values to remove any confusion that may have existed that our approach to multiculturalism justifies abhorrent cultural practices and the expression of hatred.

And I need to commend our parliamentary colleagues for their tremendous work in forming the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition Against Anti-Semitism, and for launching an inquiry which is undergoing its hearings in Parliament through this month and next. A tremendous opportunity for us to bring to light the threat of the new anti-Semitism across Canada.

At the international level, we have tried to give practical expression to our profound concern about the new anti-Semitism in many ways. We did so by being the first government in the world to announce that we were removing funding for the Palestinian authority following the election of Hamas because of the essentially anti-Semitic nature of that organization. We have robustly stood by the right of the state of Israel to use the means necessary to protect its innocent civilians from attacks, terrorist attacks motivated by hatred, committed by organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.

At the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, we have called for the continuation of a unique and particular focus on anti-Semitism in the Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, recognizing uniquely durable and pernicious hatred that is anti-Semitism. And at multilateral organizations like the Francophonie and at the United Nations General Assembly, we have consistently opposed anti-Israel resolutions that seek to scapegoat this step, democratic state amongst all others. We have taken that position at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Frequently in the past two years, we can no longer remember every Human Rights Council, I’m sure many of the members are glad to see us go, but during our initial three-year membership, on issue after issue after issue, on resolution after resolution, Canada was the only country, or one of the only countries, to consistently oppose unbalanced anti-Israel resolutions.

We have provided political, diplomatic and moral leadership in efforts to isolate the hateful regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We have led the efforts of the United Nations’s successful efforts to maintain a resolution condemning the reigning regimes human rights violations, including their violations of the rights of the religious minorities. And our Prime Minister led the world in the United Nations General Assembly walk out for the odious speech given by President Ahmadinejad at the UN earlier this year.

And of course, ours was the first government in the world to withdraw from the tainted Durban II process. We did that because our analysis was that it was like the impossible to repeat, to avoid a repetition of some of the notorious expressions of anti-Semitism that we all saw at Durban I and we believe that our decision was vindicated.

Now some have said that our government, in taking these positions, have some abandoned Canada’s traditional position of neutrality or balance in international affairs. That we have somehow undermined Canada’s international credibility and reputation on the world stage by taking these positions. I suppose these are the people who believe that there is some neutrality between tolerance and hatred, between terrorism and counter terrorism. Our government believes that in point of fact, we are reclaiming and giving new real expression to our historically grounded values. Canada was involved in the creation of the human rights process at the United Nations and we do not believe that those institutions, that the principles of the UN Declaration on Human Rights were meant to be perverted and used against democracies, were meant to be used by regimes who prey on an ancient hatred in order for their own political reasons.

We believe those trends have been in perversion of the true vocation, the true meaning of those international institutions and we believe that Canada is restoring our true belief in ability to make moral distinctions between hatred and tolerance between terrorism and counter terrorism. And we will continue to take that position.

Finally, let me say that we are working with the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to combat anti-Semitism with the hope and expectation of hosting in 2010 the next Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference Combating Anti-Semitism. We believe that, given Canada’s model of accommodating difference, given the challenges that we are facing on many of these issues and given the track record of Canada in the past, in the recent past, that we can offer some useful reference points and best practices to share with the rest of the world and parliamentarians who share our concern about the new anti-Semitism.

So thank you again to all of you for the great work that you are doing and we, both as Parliamentarians and as members of the Canadian government, look forward to continue our solidarity in combating this, history’s most pernicious form of hatred.

Honduras Police State – A Week In Pictures and Honduras: The Coup That Never Happened

By admin, December 30, 2009 9:14 am
This is a blog entry; it does not reflect the journalistic or editorial standards of the Media Coop.

December 18, 2009

Honduras Police State – A Week In Pictures

Nov. 25, 2009 - "No the the coup regime elections!  Free men and women of Honduras, they want to use your vote to legalize the coup.  Each vote is a blow to your freedom."
Nov. 25, 2009 – “No the the coup regime elections! Free men and women of Honduras, they want to use your vote to legalize the coup. Each vote is a blow to your freedom.”
Nov. 25, 2009 - Outside the Brazilian embassy, demonstrators demand the release of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
Nov. 25, 2009 – Outside the Brazilian embassy, demonstrators demand the release of democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya.
Nov. 25, 2009 - A police officer stamps out the embers of a fire lit in vigil for imprisoned President Zelaya.
Nov. 25, 2009 – A police officer stamps out the embers of a fire lit in vigil for imprisoned President Zelaya.
Nov. 25, 2009 - Juan Aguilar, a student at the Autonomous University of Honduras, is not fooled by the pretty words of Barack Obama.  Few Hondurans failed to recognize the presence of John Negroponte in their country just prior to the coup; he is the infamous former U.S. ambassador to Honduras who, during the early 80s, converted Honduras into a virtual U.S. colony and orchestrated the buildup of the Honduran military and the contra wars against Nicaragua.
Nov. 25, 2009 – Juan Aguilar, a student at the Autonomous University of Honduras, is not fooled by the pretty words of Barack Obama. Few Hondurans failed to recognize the presence of John Negroponte in their country just prior to the coup; he is the infamous former U.S. ambassador to Honduras who, during the early 80s, converted Honduras into a virtual U.S. colony and orchestrated the buildup of the Honduran military and the contra wars against Nicaragua.
Nov. 26, 2009 - Students at UNAH, the Autonomous University of Honduras, staged a one-day occupation of the campus in defiance of the regime's establishing a polling station at the university's gates.  A student organizer with the Resistance explains that, the night before, another student involved in the Resistance disappeared from this same spot after a brief confrontation with police and had not been heard from since.
Nov. 26, 2009 – Students at UNAH, the Autonomous University of Honduras, staged a one-day occupation of the campus in defiance of the regime’s establishing a polling station at the university’s gates. A student organizer with the Resistance explains that, the night before, another student involved in the Resistance disappeared from this same spot after a brief confrontation with police and had not been heard from since.
Nov. 26, 2009 - Students demonstrate their attitude towards the coup in graffiti art the covers the entire campus, like much of the rest of Tegucigalpa.
Nov. 26, 2009 – Students demonstrate their attitude towards the coup in graffiti art the covers the entire campus, like much of the rest of Tegucigalpa.
Nov. 26, 2009 - On the locked gates of the Autonomous University, students have taped a suggestion to passersby: instead of voting ("votar") they suggest that people throw away their ballots ("botar.")  In Spanish, the words sound the same.
Nov. 26, 2009 – On the locked gates of the Autonomous University, students have taped a suggestion to passersby: instead of voting (”votar”) they suggest that people throw away their ballots (”botar.”) In Spanish, the words sound the same.
Nov. 26, 2009 - Todos a 'Botar.'
Nov. 26, 2009 – Todos a ‘Botar.’
Nov. 26, 2009 - Months earlier, a peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people was interrupted by individuals who were later identified as infiltrators.  The provocatuers provoked a violent action against a Popeye's Chicken store and a few hundred people joined in - the fast food chains in Tegucigalpa are understandably resented for the fact that they are exempt from all taxes.  No one was hurt when the empty store was firebombed but the event justified major repression the next day
Nov. 26, 2009 – Months earlier, a peaceful demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people was interrupted by individuals who were later identified as infiltrators. The provocatuers provoked a violent action against a Popeye’s Chicken store and a few hundred people joined in – the fast food chains in Tegucigalpa are understandably resented for the fact that they are exempt from all taxes. No one was hurt when the empty store was firebombed but the event justified major repression the next day
Nov. 26, 2009 - Bertha Oliva, founder and director of the Committee of Families of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH) speaks at the human rights organizations main office.  She founded the organization 27 years ago when her husband was disappeared, and COFADEH has been crucial in documenting the variety of human rights abuses since the coup.  Behind her are the faces of four of the people killed in political violence since the coup.
Nov. 26, 2009 – Bertha Oliva, founder and director of the Committee of Families of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH) speaks at the human rights organizations main office. She founded the organization 27 years ago when her husband was disappeared, and COFADEH has been crucial in documenting the variety of human rights abuses since the coup. Behind her are the faces of four of the people killed in political violence since the coup.
Nov. 26, 2009 - Tegucigalpa, indeed all of the country, is covered in political graffiti.  It doesn't take long to recognize that the state is in a moment of intense political struggle and repression, despite the international media's insistence that 'everything is fine.'
Nov. 26, 2009 – Tegucigalpa, indeed all of the country, is covered in political graffiti. It doesn’t take long to recognize that the state is in a moment of intense political struggle and repression, despite the international media’s insistence that ‘everything is fine.’
Nov. 26, 2009 - A tribute to the courage and determination of the Resistance.
Nov. 26, 2009 – A tribute to the courage and determination of the Resistance.
Nov. 26, 2009 - At the Autonomous University of Honduras.
Nov. 26, 2009 – At the Autonomous University of Honduras.
Nov. 26, 2009 - The people's voice is on the walls.
Nov. 26, 2009 – The people’s voice is on the walls.
Nov. 26, 2009 - Coca-cola's voice is carved into a hill overlooking Tegucigalpa.
Nov. 26, 2009 – Coca-cola’s voice is carved into a hill overlooking Tegucigalpa.
Nov. 27, 2009 - Early in the morning, COFADEH gets a call reporting that a leader of the feminist movement in Honduras, which has been among the strongest currents in the Resistance, has been detained and is being held.  Outside the police station, dozens of women wear their groups' shirts and demand her release.  Women as young as 13 years old stand tall in the face of military and police.
Nov. 27, 2009 – Early in the morning, COFADEH gets a call reporting that a leader of the feminist movement in Honduras, which has been among the strongest currents in the Resistance, has been detained and is being held. Outside the police station, dozens of women wear their groups’ shirts and demand her release. Women as young as 13 years old stand tall in the face of military and police.
Nov. 27, 2009 - As a group of 30-40 women stand firm demanding their companeras release from police detention.  The state's coercive apparatus sends reinforcements, armed with automatic weaponry, to contain the demonstrators.
Nov. 27, 2009 – As a group of 30-40 women stand firm demanding their companeras release from police detention. The state’s coercive apparatus sends reinforcements, armed with automatic weaponry, to contain the demonstrators.
Nov. 27, 2009 - Outside the police station: refractions of women in resistance, police in repression, a photographer, and a photograph of a woman disappeared and missing since the coup.
Nov. 27, 2009 – Outside the police station: refractions of women in resistance, police in repression, a photographer, and a photograph of a woman disappeared and missing since the coup.
Nov. 27, 2009 - In the central square, the daily demonstrations build - for the 155th consecutive day.
Nov. 27, 2009 – In the central square, the daily demonstrations build – for the 155th consecutive day.
Nov. 27, 2009 - A protestor holds a sign that asks, "what democracy?"
Nov. 27, 2009 – A protestor holds a sign that asks, “what democracy?”
Nov. 27, 2009 - A few feet away, a military officer holds a riot shield that answers the question.
Nov. 27, 2009 – A few feet away, a military officer holds a riot shield that answers the question.
Nov. 27, 2009 - A demonstrator holds a sign that has been held at every demonstration for nearly four months.
Nov. 27, 2009 – A demonstrator holds a sign that has been held at every demonstration for nearly four months.
Nov. 27, 2009 - Soldiers wait behind the police line, in case the decision to supress the demonstrations is taken again.
Nov. 27, 2009 – Soldiers wait behind the police line, in case the decision to supress the demonstrations is taken again.
Nov. 27, 2009 - Demonstrations go ahead as planned, and hundreds fill the square in front of Congress, where the coup-leaders are safely protected by police and military.  The demonstration is smaller than normal, as people are worried about the consequences of actively opposing the elections in light of radio announcements threatening all Hondurans with arrest and incarceration if they demonstrate against the elections.Nov.
Nov. 27, 2009 – Demonstrations go ahead as planned, and hundreds fill the square in front of Congress, where the coup-leaders are safely protected by police and military. The demonstration is smaller than normal, as people are worried about the consequences of actively opposing the elections in light of radio announcements threatening all Hondurans with arrest and incarceration if they demonstrate against the elections.Nov.
 27, 2009 - Many still find the courage to openly reject the elections, demanding the reinstatement of constitutional order.
27, 2009 – Many still find the courage to openly reject the elections, demanding the reinstatement of constitutional order.
Nov. 27, 2009 - At the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) a soldier watches a delegation of the five largest human rights organizations in the country arrive to deliver a formal demand that the election be cancelled on account of the obvious lack of appropriate conditions (freedom of expression, assembly, opinion, etc) necessary for free and fair elections.  They provide details on the violations of human rights since the coup, including 33 people killed in political violence.
Nov. 27, 2009 – At the headquarters of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) a soldier watches a delegation of the five largest human rights organizations in the country arrive to deliver a formal demand that the election be cancelled on account of the obvious lack of appropriate conditions (freedom of expression, assembly, opinion, etc) necessary for free and fair elections. They provide details on the violations of human rights since the coup, including 33 people killed in political violence.
Nov. 27, 2009 - Inside the TSE, the human rights groups' scheduled 2:00 meeting is delayed on account of the arrival of elections observers sent by the United States to legitimate the process.  As they walk away from the gathered crowd into a private office, they can be overheard making derisive comments about the human rights observers and about Honduras in general.  Later, I interviewed one of the observers, J. Edward Fox, who denied knowing anything about human rights violations in Honduras.
Nov. 27, 2009 – Inside the TSE, the human rights groups’ scheduled 2:00 meeting is delayed on account of the arrival of elections observers sent by the United States to legitimate the process. As they walk away from the gathered crowd into a private office, they can be overheard making derisive comments about the human rights observers and about Honduras in general. Later, I interviewed one of the observers, J. Edward Fox, who denied knowing anything about human rights violations in Honduras.
Nov. 28, 2009 - Outside Tegucigalpa, the situation is the same.
Nov. 28, 2009 – Outside Tegucigalpa, the situation is the same.
Nov. 28, 2009 - While driving to Comayagua to meet with people under threat of arrest for working with the Resistance, we pass U.S. military base Palmarola from which the Contra Wars against Nicaragua were launched.  The presence of one of the largest U.S. bases in Central America, just a few miles outside of Tegucigalpa, makes their denial of any knowledge of the coup (which involved flying President Zelaya out of the country in a helicopter) patently absurd.
Nov. 28, 2009 – While driving to Comayagua to meet with people under threat of arrest for working with the Resistance, we pass U.S. military base Palmarola from which the Contra Wars against Nicaragua were launched. The presence of one of the largest U.S. bases in Central America, just a few miles outside of Tegucigalpa, makes their denial of any knowledge of the coup (which involved flying President Zelaya out of the country in a helicopter) patently absurd.
Nov. 28, 2009 - In the afternoon, COFADEH got a call from staff at Red Comal, a campesino organization that does educational work for small producers and helps them market their products.  We arrived to find military and police completely surrounding and occupying the remote mountain school.
Nov. 28, 2009 – In the afternoon, COFADEH got a call from staff at Red Comal, a campesino organization that does educational work for small producers and helps them market their products. We arrived to find military and police completely surrounding and occupying the remote mountain school.
Nov. 28, 2009 - The eyes of a soldier stationed outside the Red Comal school.
Nov. 28, 2009 – The eyes of a soldier stationed outside the Red Comal school.
Nov. 28, 2009 - Inside the Red Comal school, police interrogate Julio, the day watchmen, who was beaten by the military when they arrived.
Nov. 28, 2009 – Inside the Red Comal school, police interrogate Julio, the day watchmen, who was beaten by the military when they arrived.
Nov. 28, 2009 - When the operation finally ends, it is clear that there were some 20-30 soldiers involved in the assault on the small campesino school.
Nov. 28, 2009 – When the operation finally ends, it is clear that there were some 20-30 soldiers involved in the assault on the small campesino school.
Nov. 28, 2009 - Once the military had left, the director of the school showed us the office, where soldiers had kicked in the door, ransacked the closets and paperwork, taken three laptop computers filled with critical information and actually stole 4000 lempiras from the strongbox.
Nov. 28, 2009 – Once the military had left, the director of the school showed us the office, where soldiers had kicked in the door, ransacked the closets and paperwork, taken three laptop computers filled with critical information and actually stole 4000 lempiras from the strongbox.
Nov. 28, 2009 - A broken window outside one of the classrooms of the Red Comal campesino school.  The police claimed that they were investigating the school on suspicion that they were amassing weapons.  The director of the school explained, "we teach people why they are poor - for that, we are a threat."
Nov. 28, 2009 – A broken window outside one of the classrooms of the Red Comal campesino school. The police claimed that they were investigating the school on suspicion that they were amassing weapons. The director of the school explained, “we teach people why they are poor – for that, we are a threat.”
Nov. 29, 2009 - "Election" day in Honduras.  The El Libertador newspaper, published from a secret location after its equipment and staff were harassed, attacked and even assassinated, encourages people to boycott the election.
Nov. 29, 2009 – “Election” day in Honduras. The El Libertador newspaper, published from a secret location after its equipment and staff were harassed, attacked and even assassinated, encourages people to boycott the election.
Nov. 29, 2009 - In the early morning hours of "election" day, the streets are quiet and the tension is palpable.
Nov. 29, 2009 – In the early morning hours of “election” day, the streets are quiet and the tension is palpable.
Nov. 29, 2009 - The streets are quiet, but the military and police are out in force.  Their numbers are bolstered by 14,000 private security guards hired by the state (and given full military fatigues) to lockdown the country for the "elections."
Nov. 29, 2009 – The streets are quiet, but the military and police are out in force. Their numbers are bolstered by 14,000 private security guards hired by the state (and given full military fatigues) to lockdown the country for the “elections.”
Nov. 29, 2009.  This is the scene in central Tegucigalpa as Hondurans go to the polls.  According to U.S. elections observers, this does not constitute a climate of intimidation.
Nov. 29, 2009. This is the scene in central Tegucigalpa as Hondurans go to the polls. According to U.S. elections observers, this does not constitute a climate of intimidation.
Nov. 29, 2009 - In a small town in Danli, residents explain that this main street is normally crowded and boisterous on election day.  As in every other town we visited, there is no 'fiesta democratica' to be seen.
Nov. 29, 2009 – In a small town in Danli, residents explain that this main street is normally crowded and boisterous on election day. As in every other town we visited, there is no ‘fiesta democratica’ to be seen.
Nov. 29, 2009 - "Jutiapa is in Mel Territory!  No to the vote!  Yes to the constitutional assembly!"
Nov. 29, 2009 – “Jutiapa is in Mel Territory! No to the vote! Yes to the constitutional assembly!”
Nov. 29, 2009 - In the southern town of Jutiapa, the community has refused to be intimidated by the military and police.  Despite kidnappings and detentions, beating and death threats, and a ceaseless campaign of terror, they hang a banner on the main road through town declaring themselves against the coup and the elections.  They pose for a photo, cheering beneath their banner, knowing that police are stationed just a few blocks away.
Nov. 29, 2009 – In the southern town of Jutiapa, the community has refused to be intimidated by the military and police. Despite kidnappings and detentions, beating and death threats, and a ceaseless campaign of terror, they hang a banner on the main road through town declaring themselves against the coup and the elections. They pose for a photo, cheering beneath their banner, knowing that police are stationed just a few blocks away.
Nov. 29, 2009 - At a community meeting in Jutiapa, people give detailed accounts of the repression they have faced to members of FIAN human rights workers.  One man holds up a jar containing a piece of the skull of a local who was shot in the head by police a few months earlier.
Nov. 29, 2009 – At a community meeting in Jutiapa, people give detailed accounts of the repression they have faced to members of FIAN human rights workers. One man holds up a jar containing a piece of the skull of a local who was shot in the head by police a few months earlier.
Nov. 29, 2009 - Just blocks away from the banner rejecting the elections and the coup, military and police guard a polling station.  Ballot boxes have been set up at this local school, which looks more like a military facility, as troops with M-16s surround anyone who enters the school grounds.
Nov. 29, 2009 – Just blocks away from the banner rejecting the elections and the coup, military and police guard a polling station. Ballot boxes have been set up at this local school, which looks more like a military facility, as troops with M-16s surround anyone who enters the school grounds.
Nov. 29, 2009 - The view from the polling station at Jutiapa looks like this.
Nov. 29, 2009 – The view from the polling station at Jutiapa looks like this.
Nov. 29, 2009 - The polling station has more soldiers than civilians, and those civilians who are around are patently aware of the military presence.  Representatives of human rights group FIAN and a reporter from Radio Globo confront the military about their overwhelming show of force in what is supposed to be a free and open process.  Things get tense and the FIAN representatives decide that it is best to leave - many of them have been targeted with beatings and death threats already.
Nov. 29, 2009 – The polling station has more soldiers than civilians, and those civilians who are around are patently aware of the military presence. Representatives of human rights group FIAN and a reporter from Radio Globo confront the military about their overwhelming show of force in what is supposed to be a free and open process. Things get tense and the FIAN representatives decide that it is best to leave – many of them have been targeted with beatings and death threats already.
Nov. 29, 2009 - "When the media goes silent, the walls speak."
Nov. 29, 2009 – “When the media goes silent, the walls speak.”
Nov. 30, 2009 - The morning after the 'elections,' the TSE has reported a 60% turnout and a victory for the National Party's coup-supporter Pepe Lobo.  The international media picks up the number and reports it far and wide, despite the fact that even by the TSE's own figures (claiming 1.7 million votes out of 8 million people and 4.6 million eligible voters) such a figure is impossible.  The figure is later confirmed to have been fabricated.  The walls announce 'Pepe Robo' - Pepe the Robber.
Nov. 30, 2009 – The morning after the ‘elections,’ the TSE has reported a 60% turnout and a victory for the National Party’s coup-supporter Pepe Lobo. The international media picks up the number and reports it far and wide, despite the fact that even by the TSE’s own figures (claiming 1.7 million votes out of 8 million people and 4.6 million eligible voters) such a figure is impossible. The figure is later confirmed to have been fabricated. The walls announce ‘Pepe Robo’ – Pepe the Robber.
Nov. 30, 2009 - It is evident, the morning after the election, that the boycott was widely followed.  My first taxi driver of the day proudly shows off his un-inked fingers - demonstrating that he did not vote - and tells me he wishes he could attend the assembly called by the Resistence but cannot because he has to work.
Nov. 30, 2009 – It is evident, the morning after the election, that the boycott was widely followed. My first taxi driver of the day proudly shows off his un-inked fingers – demonstrating that he did not vote – and tells me he wishes he could attend the assembly called by the Resistence but cannot because he has to work.
Nov. 30, 2009 - The resistance continues, even as the coup regime and its international allies declare the political crisis to be solved.  The Resistance calls an assembly at the STIBYS union hall to speak to the press (no major international media showed up, despite the press conference being widely publicized) and to discuss the next steps for the movement against the coup and for constitutional reform.
Nov. 30, 2009 – The resistance continues, even as the coup regime and its international allies declare the political crisis to be solved. The Resistance calls an assembly at the STIBYS union hall to speak to the press (no major international media showed up, despite the press conference being widely publicized) and to discuss the next steps for the movement against the coup and for constitutional reform.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Carlos H. Reyes, former independant Presidential candidate, speaks to the press and the crowd at the STIBYS union hall.  Reyes was confirmed as a candidate before the coup, and remained a candidate into October in the hopes that the coup regime would recognize its illegitimacy and restore constitutional order.  They didn't and, after he himself was hospitalized from a police blow to the head at a peaceful rally, Reyes and dozens of candidates at all levels withdrew in protest.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Carlos H. Reyes, former independant Presidential candidate, speaks to the press and the crowd at the STIBYS union hall. Reyes was confirmed as a candidate before the coup, and remained a candidate into October in the hopes that the coup regime would recognize its illegitimacy and restore constitutional order. They didn’t and, after he himself was hospitalized from a police blow to the head at a peaceful rally, Reyes and dozens of candidates at all levels withdrew in protest.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Hundreds of people fill the union hall to demand that the 'elections' be rejected and to insist that the TSE tell the truth about the record high levels of absenteeism.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Hundreds of people fill the union hall to demand that the ‘elections’ be rejected and to insist that the TSE tell the truth about the record high levels of absenteeism.
Nov. 30, 2009 - In what quickly became a symbol of the movement, people raised their un-inked pinky fingers to demonstrate that they had not voted.
Nov. 30, 2009 – In what quickly became a symbol of the movement, people raised their un-inked pinky fingers to demonstrate that they had not voted.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Two prominent members of the Resistance prepare to lead the crowd of hundreds on a caravan through Tegucigalpa to celebrate the successful boycott of the 'elections' and demand the re-instatement of the President that they chose - Manuel Zelaya - and a restoration of the project for constitutional reform.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Two prominent members of the Resistance prepare to lead the crowd of hundreds on a caravan through Tegucigalpa to celebrate the successful boycott of the ‘elections’ and demand the re-instatement of the President that they chose – Manuel Zelaya – and a restoration of the project for constitutional reform.
Nov. 30, 2009 - The day after millions of Hondurans refused to participate in sham elections, hundreds took to the streets in a caravan that snaked through the colonias and barrios of the capital city.  The caravan stretched further than the eye could see, horns were honking, people were cheering and flags were flying.
Nov. 30, 2009 – The day after millions of Hondurans refused to participate in sham elections, hundreds took to the streets in a caravan that snaked through the colonias and barrios of the capital city. The caravan stretched further than the eye could see, horns were honking, people were cheering and flags were flying.
Nov. 30, 2009 - As the Resistance caravan wove its way through the capital city, people streamed out of their homes and shops and parks to cheer on the caravan and to show that they, too, had not voted by raising their un-inked fingers to the sky.
Nov. 30, 2009 – As the Resistance caravan wove its way through the capital city, people streamed out of their homes and shops and parks to cheer on the caravan and to show that they, too, had not voted by raising their un-inked fingers to the sky.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Honduran democracy peeks out from behind a pole as the people parade past in a caravan celebrating the successful boycott of the sham elections.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Honduran democracy peeks out from behind a pole as the people parade past in a caravan celebrating the successful boycott of the sham elections.
Nov. 30, 2009 - The Resistance caravan steams towards its destination - the Brazilian embassy in which their President is held.  As the people get closer, the military becomes more and more present.  They watch the caravan, automatic weapons at the ready, from side streets and from parks, but people refuse to be intimidated.
Nov. 30, 2009 – The Resistance caravan steams towards its destination – the Brazilian embassy in which their President is held. As the people get closer, the military becomes more and more present. They watch the caravan, automatic weapons at the ready, from side streets and from parks, but people refuse to be intimidated.
Nov. 30, 2009 - As the sun sets, the caravan arrives at the Brazilian embassy where the demonstration builds slowly as each car or truck full of people arrive.  They are met with a sight they are, by now, used to: a row of police in riot gear with tear gas and water cannons and automatic weapons.
Nov. 30, 2009 – As the sun sets, the caravan arrives at the Brazilian embassy where the demonstration builds slowly as each car or truck full of people arrive. They are met with a sight they are, by now, used to: a row of police in riot gear with tear gas and water cannons and automatic weapons.
Nov. 30, 2009 - The confrontation at the Brazilian embassy builds as Hondurans demonstrate their commitment to restoration of constitutional order and police hold their line in front of the embassy.  The presence of a Burger King right on the square that has been the site of so much struggle in the past four months is a painful and poignant irony.
Nov. 30, 2009 – The confrontation at the Brazilian embassy builds as Hondurans demonstrate their commitment to restoration of constitutional order and police hold their line in front of the embassy. The presence of a Burger King right on the square that has been the site of so much struggle in the past four months is a painful and poignant irony.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Demonstrators demand to see President Zelaya, in the shadow of the police.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Demonstrators demand to see President Zelaya, in the shadow of the police.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Though their structural role in the coup is clear, the people who are drawn into police and military often come out of poor backgrounds themselves; presumably even they must sometimes wonder why they are being told to turn their guns on their own.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Though their structural role in the coup is clear, the people who are drawn into police and military often come out of poor backgrounds themselves; presumably even they must sometimes wonder why they are being told to turn their guns on their own.
Nov. 30, 2009 - Demonstrations outside the Brazilian embassy reach a peaceful but powerful crescendo as more and more people arrive to bolster their numbers.
Nov. 30, 2009 – Demonstrations outside the Brazilian embassy reach a peaceful but powerful crescendo as more and more people arrive to bolster their numbers.
Nov. 30, 2009 - With more people on the scene demanding President Zelaya's release, the police respond by adding to their numbers - by this point, there are police lines on three sides of the demonstration, with the Burger King on the other.
Nov. 30, 2009 – With more people on the scene demanding President Zelaya’s release, the police respond by adding to their numbers – by this point, there are police lines on three sides of the demonstration, with the Burger King on the other.
Nov. 30, 2009 - After an emotional interview in which he begs the international community to see what is happening in Honduras, Pedro Joaquin Amador returns to the demonstration to find the guns aimed directly at the crowd and urges people to back away and prepare themselves for tear gas, water cannons or bullets.
Nov. 30, 2009 – After an emotional interview in which he begs the international community to see what is happening in Honduras, Pedro Joaquin Amador returns to the demonstration to find the guns aimed directly at the crowd and urges people to back away and prepare themselves for tear gas, water cannons or bullets.
Nov. 30, 2009 - On the other side of the police line.
Nov. 30, 2009 – On the other side of the police line.
Nov. 30, 2009 - With so many international press people still present, the police decided not to attack the crowd and so the demonstration ended without bloodshed.  But it also ended without any change - no restoration of the democratically elected President, no end to the coup regime, no end to police impunity, no justice for the hundreds of people beaten raped or killed by the regime, and no justice for the millions more who have been terrorized by it.  The struggle continues.
Nov. 30, 2009 – With so many international press people still present, the police decided not to attack the crowd and so the demonstration ended without bloodshed. But it also ended without any change – no restoration of the democratically elected President, no end to the coup regime, no end to police impunity, no justice for the hundreds of people beaten raped or killed by the regime, and no justice for the millions more who have been terrorized by it. The struggle continues.
Dec. 1, 2009 - The final insult: the airport in Tegucigalpa sells t-shirts commemorating this historic moment for Honduran democracy.
Dec. 1, 2009 – The final insult: the airport in Tegucigalpa sells t-shirts commemorating this historic moment for Honduran democracy.
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Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 290
December 22, 2009

Honduras: The Coup That Never Happened

Tyler Shipley

“When the media goes quiet, the walls speak.” — graffiti in Tegucigalpa.

What strikes a visitor to the Honduran capital most immediately in this moment is the degree to which the social and political conflict that has erupted since the golpe de estado (coup d’etat) on June 28th is actually written on the walls, the fences, the rockfaces, bridges, errant bits of siding, abandoned buildings, and even the concrete upon which one walks. Though the discourse in the international press is muddled and misinformed, the situation in Honduras is very obvious to those who are here – as a quick taxi ride around Tegucigalpa demonstrates.

Political Graffiti in TegucigalpaNov. 26, 2009 – Tegucigalpa, indeed all of the country, is covered in political graffiti. It doesn’t take long to recognize that the state is in a moment of intense political struggle and repression, despite the international media’s insistence that ‘everything is fine.’

Honduras has been long dominated by a handful of some ten to fifteen wealthy families. Everyone here knows their names – Facusse, Ferrari, Micheletti – and now they are scrawled on walls everywhere, next to accusations of golpista (coup-supporter) and asesino (assassin). These oligarchs used to be satisfied by controlling the economy and buying off the politicians, but they now increasingly insist upon exercising direct political control themselves, and their names show up more and more in congress, in the supreme court and now even in the executive branch.

It is in that context that an event that fit perfectly the definition of a coup is being recast by the Honduran elite, and its foreign allies, as a constitutional transfer of power. Never mind that the democratically elected President was abducted from his home and flown out of the country in his pyjamas on the morning of a non-binding referendum on re-opening the constitution to reform. Never mind that the movement to reform the constitution was driven by a social movement that wanted to re-found the country along more equitable lines, breaking the decades of uncontested dominance by the few over the many. Never mind that President Manuel Zelaya’s only transgression was that he was appealing directly to the people, in defiance of a congress and supreme court that was subservient to the oligarchy and would never consent to reforming a constitution that was written to serve their interests.

These details – say the golpistas – are not important. Instead, they spin a tale in which Zelaya was a minion of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez (who according to this discourse is inherently bad) and claim that Zelaya intended to change the constitution to make himself president-for-life. In order to preserve democracy, the story says, the congress and supreme court proceeded with a legal process to remove the elected president and replace him until new elections could be held. This story has been taken up by the international press, despite its being patently untrue, and repeated ad nauseam in the hopes of giving legitimacy to a process that seeks to re-entrench an oligarchy feeling its power threatened for the first time in decades.

The U.S.S. Honduras

The central issue at stake in Honduras today – and the spark for the oligarchy’s risky decision to carry out the coup in June – is the increasingly adamant insistence on the part of Honduran social movements for a constituyente, the striking of an assembly to re-write the constitution. It was, indeed, this very question that was to be put to a non-binding referendum on the morning of the coup and it was expected that the people would support the idea overwhelmingly. Like many of its Central and South American neighbours, Honduras’ principle legal code was written during a period dominated by U.S. Cold War imperialism and local comprador quasi-fascists. The legacy of the Operation Condor/School of the Americas era was, among so many other tragedies, legal and political structures that ensured the continued dominance of the elite few and Honduras was a perfect case study.

In fact, the current constitution of Honduras was ratified in 1982, during the period in which it earned the nickname ‘U.S.S. Honduras.’ The most successful resistance group in Honduras in the 1970s was called the National Federation of Honduras Peasants (FENACH) and wasn’t able to muster the kind of strength that the Sandinistas in Nicaragua built, nor even to achieve the limited level of challenge of the guerillas in Guatemala or El Salvador. As a result, Honduras became the perfect base for U.S. operations in Central America, and indeed the Contra Wars against Nicaragua were waged from the U.S. military base at Palmerola, just outside of Tegucigalpa, among countless other interventions and terror campaigns in the region.

In addition to the 18 military bases it established and the 10,000 American troops stationed there, the U.S. also provided the Honduran armed forces with over $100-million between 1980-84. This infusion of money and technical support to the military and business elite reinforced the strength of the oligarchy in Tegucigalpa and led to dramatic increases in poverty, inequality and political repression. The 1982 constitution was written after decades of military dictatorship while Honduras was playing host to a U.S.-led paramilitary contra force of over 15,000 soldiers trained in what we now call ‘counter-insurgency’ – specializing in campaigns of terror against primarily poor and ill-equipped guerilla forces and their supporters. During that period, according to Joan Kruckewitt, “the use of repression, instead of concessions and reform, became the norm” and that “the military emerged from the period of U.S.-led militarization as the most powerful sector in the country, with few checks and balances to restrain them.”[1] Indeed, between 1981-84, while the new constitution was being written, ratified and established into political order, the military carried out 214 political assassinations, 110 ‘disappearances,’ and 1,947 illegal detentions.

Given that context, calling the 1982 constitution ‘representative’ of any but the most elite strata of Honduran society would be patently absurd; the vast majority of people in the country were living in abject poverty and ceaseless fear of their own soldiers and police. But as the political climate in Latin America has shifted, and as new openings for emancipatory projects have emerged, Hondurans have become increasingly insistent on the need to re-establish the country on their own terms. Social movements centered around trade-unions, human rights and campesino groups increasingly drew people from a wide variety of Honduran civil society into a broad movement for significant reform, and had their greatest successes between 2005-2008 under President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya.

June 28th and the Demise of Democracy

Perhaps the most interesting thing about June 28th was the way that it created Mel Zelaya as a popular figure in Honduras. He was elected President in 2005 as a member of the Liberal Party, one of the two primary parties, neither known for any history of radicalism. Zelaya’s own background was as a junior-member of the oligarchy, a wealthy rancher from the south, and his long political career had never shown any signs of divergence from the standard conservatism of Honduran politics. In fact, the only thing that separated Zelaya from someone like Roberto Micheletti – the tremendously unpopular figure who emerged as de facto President after the coup – was that he recognized the growing popularity of the movements for social reform. His decisions to raise the minimum wage, to declare a moratorium on foreign mining concessions and to veto a law banning birth-control pills were not simply manifestations of his own radical spirit, no matter how noble his intentions may have been.

No, Zelaya executed in a calculating way – through undeniably positive – political decisions that kept him palatable to the people on whom his support relied. Indeed, he relied on that support increasingly after his support for the constituent assembly broke him from his allies in the Liberal Party. But Zelaya before June 28th was simply a means to an end for the social movements in Honduras – a politician who had proven to be malleable to demonstrations of popular politics. His endorsement of the constituyente was the most important move he made and, in fact, he conducted the process with due diligence to the existing constitution and, despite its being repeated in every AP news bulletin since the coup, it never contained even the possibility of giving Zelaya another term in office.

The process was to be as follows: on June 28th, Hondurans would vote in a non-binding referendum on whether they supported the addition of a fourth ballot in the general elections scheduled for Nov. 29th. Normally, Honduran elections feature three ballots, corresponding to each of the three levels of government. If the referendum came back with a strong ‘yes,’ Zelaya would have added the fourth ballot asking the question “do you support the creation of a national constituent assembly to re-draft the constitution?” Accordingly, the constitution could not have possibly been changed before the Nov. 29th elections, and so Zelaya could not have possibly stood for re-election. Furthermore, the primaries for that election had already taken place and, again, Zelaya’s name was not put forward – even had he wanted to, it was illegal.

The notion that Zelaya intended to manipulate the process to stay in power is patently absurd. But the Honduran Congress, packed with members of the oligarchy, felt that the re-opening of the constitution could represent a real threat to their stranglehold on power and refused to accept the idea. Zelaya, in response, appealed directly to the people – implicitly rejecting the legitimacy of the Honduran form of representative democracy that had brought him to power in the first place – and vowed to pursue the constituyente if the people asked for it.

Of course, that process never went ahead, because the morning that the first non-binding poll was supposed to happen, Zelaya was abducted by the military and flown to Costa Rica. Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as de facto President, and the referendum was cancelled. Dramatic footage from that morning showed people in the early hours of the day, coming out to vote and finding the military in the streets – outrage turned to despair which, in turn, was channeled into absolute determination to resist this transparently coercive undermining of popular will. Demonstrations erupted in the immediate aftermath of the coup, and the golpista regime expected them to last for only a few days. Unlike Zelaya, they underestimated the strength and commitment of the Honduran movement for reform.

Resistencia!

“I’m proud that Hondurans are usually so peaceful, but I’m even more proud that we’re finally standing up for ourselves.” – Rosa Mayda Martinez, office worker, Jutiapa.

What followed was the largest sustained demonstration in Central American history. For 156 straight days, Hondurans took to the streets of Tegucigalpa. The numbers fluctuated from as high as hundreds of thousands to the still impressive thousands that were protesting right up to the day of the ‘elections’ on Nov. 29th. Predictably, they met widespread and violent repression. Between June and November, 33 people were killed in political violence and hundreds more were detained, beaten, kidnapped, raped and otherwise victimized by an increasingly militarized state apparatus. In September, President Zelaya returned to the country and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy, where he still remains, guarded by police who are under orders to arrest him the moment he leaves Brazilian territory.

Southern town of JutiapaNov. 29, 2009 – In the southern town of Jutiapa, the community has refused to be intimidated by the military and police. Despite kidnappings and detentions, beating and death threats, and a ceaseless campaign of terror, they hang a banner on the main road through town declaring themselves against the coup and the elections. They pose for a photo, cheering beneath their banner, knowing that police are stationed just a few blocks away.

There is much more to be said about the nature of the resistance than space here permits. For the time being, it will have to suffice to say that the coup produced the unintended consequence of uniting an otherwise fragmented group of organizations into a broad coalition – the Frente Popular Nacional de Resistencia (National Popular Resistance Front) – which has become the most important popular organization in Honduras. Its members come primarily from the poorest classes – workers and campesinos – but are also drawn from the relatively small ‘middle’ classes, including teachers, lawyers, doctors, left-liberal politicians and civil servants etc. They have worked closely with local human rights organizations and some foreign NGOs, but they have maintained absolute autonomy from foreign interlocutors (whatever their intentions) in defiance of the characterization of the Frente as a Chávez-exported ring of professional troublemakers and socialists.

The demonstrations have not been limited to Tegucigalpa. The second largest city in Honduras, San Pedro Sula, is a major industrial center and is the epicenter of foreign-owned Honduran maquiladora-style production. Protests have erupted there regularly, including one on the day of the Nov. 29th ‘elections.’ It was repressed with tear gas and rubber bullets injuring dozens of people, including a Reuters photographer from Brazil. Furthermore, rural Hondurans have been active in the resistance, blocking highways, distributing information and protesting outside government offices. Only a few areas of Honduras have not seen major movements against the coup – primarily Roatan and the Bay Islands, a ring of tropical island destinations off the north coast, dotted with, and politically controlled by, foreign-owned resort hotels (many of them Canadian).

The foreign and local elite who have turned the islands, and most of their inhabitants, into tools for their personal profit have been the most vocally supportive of the coup. They pump out misleading or, at best, willfully ignorant anti-Zelaya rants everywhere they can, notably on internet news sites; my own reports have been consistently attacked and, in one instance, they even went as far as to threaten my life. These attacks are most likely motivated by the insistence of the social movements for tax reforms that would bring a share of their profits back to the state for the purposes of re-distribution through increased support for education, housing, health care and other social programs. Foreign-owned companies currently operate in an almost-entirely tax free environment, one of the many grievances that the proponents of the constituyente were hoping to redress.

The Re-Emergence of State Terror

“In my case, I am known by the police, they can do anything to me. I thought about moving to a new house with comrades, do you think this is a good idea?” – Rosner Giovanni Reyes, member of Resistance, in a meeting with COFADEH representatives, Nov. 28th, 2009.

But the golpistas and their beneficiaries are bound and determined to block that process indefinitely. Repression of the resistance has been violent and thorough. Human rights groups like the Committee of the Families of the Disappeared and Detained in Honduras (COFADEH) have worked tirelessly since June 28th to produce detailed documentation of the brutality. Their reports, not surprisingly, fall on deaf ears. The campaign of state terror they have documented is too far-reaching to possibly reproduce here, but they provided a very useful summation in a report on Nov. 28th. This report, produced by the five leading human rights groups in Honduras, was presented to the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) on the day before the ‘elections’ in a formal declaration demanding that the elections be cancelled on account of the impossibility of their being fair and free in the context of the coup and state terror:

“(These elections are being conducted) in a context of grave and systematic violations of human rights. Since the day of the coup, we have documented 33 violent and politically motivated deaths, torture, cruel and inhuman and degrading treatment, sexual assault and restrictions on freedom of association, assembly, expression, opinion and more.”[2]

They go on to note that holding elections under these circumstances is absurd, given that the same people who are committing this violence are those who are supposed to be responsible for running fair elections. They also note some of the most high-profile cases of repression. Carlos H. Reyes, a member of the social movements and initially an independent Presidential candidate, was hospitalized after a brutal blow from police in a peaceful demonstration. Ulises Sarmiento, a well-known member of the Liberal Party who sympathized with the resistance had his home ransacked by soldiers with automatic weapons in the province of Olancho. Eliseo Hernandez Juarez, a vice-mayoral candidate, was assassinated.

Not surprisingly, the violence has not been limited to high-profile politicians. Victor Corrales Mejia and his son, members of the resistance, were arrested the night before the elections and beaten in their home. Police came to their home, hit Victor in the head and spine with batons and threatened to kill him. “They kicked in my door, they threw me out like I was a sack of corn, they want to intimidate us,” he told me. “But our desire for democracy is stronger than they are.” In Comayagua, where the resistance is strong and led by teachers, campesinos and women’s and indigenous rights activists, the Mayor threatened to give the names and addresses of anyone who interfered with the election to the military. In fact, the military sent a letter a month before the elections demanding such lists from all the Mayors across the country. Meanwhile, state henchmen shot Alejandro Villatoro, the owner of Radio Globo – one of the few media outlets brave enough to speak out against the coup – and stole the computer from which the station was broadcasting.

Indeed, Radio Globo had by that point resorted almost exclusively to broadcasting online from secret locations, after months of repression. Radio Globo, along with Radio Progreso and Radio Uno, television station Canal 36 and newspaper El Libertador are among the media outlets that have faced relentless repression since the coup. Some, like Canal 36, have shut down altogether after having equipment destroyed, signals interrupted, offices ransacked and editors assassinated. Even organizations that are not directly linked to the resistance are being targeted in the context of police impunity. Red Comal, a campesino organization that helps small farmers to market their produce and runs educational campaigns designed to build networks between campesinos and social movements, had its offices attacked, computers and money stolen, and employees beaten. Miguel Alonzo Macias, the director of the organization, explained to me, “we teach people why they are poor. For that, we are a threat.”

Whitewashing the Coup

“No to the coup regime elections! Free men and women of Honduras, they want to use your vote to legalize the coup. Each vote is a blow to your freedom.” – Resistencia poster.

Given the context described above, it is hard to imagine how anyone could seriously claim that ‘the event’ on Nov. 29th could be called a free or fair election. On the day of the vote, the Frente urged Hondurans to stay home and boycott la farsa (farce). And that is precisely what happened – on a day that is normally a boisterous street party filled with red or blue flags representing to the two primary political parties, Honduras was quiet and subdued. Most polling stations had more military and police than civilians. The TSE itself admitted that only around 1.7 million people voted, in a country of nearly 8 million, with 4.6 million eligible to vote. That makes a turnout of around 35%, the lowest since the end of military dictatorships in the early 80s. Inexplicably, on the night of Nov. 29th, the TSE announced a projected turnout of 60%, which became the number repeated in almost every international news source. Fox News in the United States was one of the few exceptions, reporting the absurd figure of 70% – no one has yet been able to explain where that number came from.

A few days after the election, video journalist Jesse Freeston of the Real News was able to get into the TSE headquarters and produced a video documenting fraudulent reporting of voter totals, designed to create the illusion that Hondurans had not boycotted the election. This documentation is important in demonstrating to the international community that these elections should never be recognized as legitimate in any way. But it is totally unnecessary for Hondurans themselves, who knew long before the elections ever took place that they would be a sham, and had that knowledge confirmed on Nov. 29th. As the human rights organizations explained in their Nov. 28th document:

“holding reliable elections does not depend solely on the implementation of sophisticated technology, international observers or the strict adherence to the formal process; it also requires knowing that there was a clean process preceding the elections, produced by a climate of full freedom, one where candidates and the electorate can express themselves openly and in a context of absolute equality, without fear of assassination, torture, detention and incarceration.”[3]

Indeed, an interview I conducted with Edward Fox, a former USAID official, Republican campaign financer and an elections observer sent from Washington to legitimate the process, demonstrated quite plainly that the few organizations who went to Honduras for Nov. 29th were not interested in investigating what was happening away from the polling stations. As we spoke on camera from Miami International Airport on Dec. 1st, Fox claimed to know nothing about “alleged” human rights violations, cast suspicion on the groups documenting the violence despite not being able to name a single one of them, and justified his endorsement of the elections by telling me that he had spoken to the U.S. Ambassador who is, Fox reminded me, “there all the time.” His organization, the Washington Senior Observer Group, reported that they:

“witnessed the enthusiastic desire of thousands of Honduran citizens to cast their ballots. Many took time to thank us for our presence today. Without exception, they expressed confidence in the electoral system, pride in exercising their right to vote, and a profound hope that their election is a decisive step toward the restoration of the constitutional and democratic order in Honduras.”[4]

They further asserted that they saw “no voter intimidation by any group, individual, or party” and that their observations “coincide with those reported by other observers and by the media throughout Honduras.” Nonetheless, when I asked Edward Fox about those other observers, the groups who have been documenting the violence and terror, he admitted that he had not spoken to any of them. Avoiding them must have taken some effort, because when those groups presented their report to the TSE on Nov. 28th, the U.S. observers were there; in fact, the human rights delegation had their meeting scheduled for 2:00 p.m. but had to wait until well after 4:00 p.m. because TSE officials were meeting with the U.S. observers. We were all there together, and at one point I overheard the U.S. observers chatting amongst themselves derisively about the human rights group and about Honduras in general.

Looking Ahead

“Where are the people? The people are in the streets, struggling for their freedom!” – Resistencia chant.

Sadly, though not surprisingly, reports like Fox’s bolstered the positions taken by governments of the global North and their right-wing allies in Latin America. Both have fallen all over themselves to legitimate the election process and, in so doing, legitimate the coup itself. Canada’s foreign affairs minister Peter Kent responded to the elections announcing that Canada:

“congratulates the Honduran people for the relatively peaceful and orderly manner in which the country’s elections were conducted. While Sunday’s elections were not monitored by international organizations such as the Organization of American States, we are encouraged by reports from civil society organizations that there was a strong turnout for the elections, that they appear to have been run freely and fairly, and that there was no major violence.”[5]

Much more needs to be said about Canada’s relationship to Honduras and the golpistas. A petition, calling for non-recognition of the elections is circulating and has garnered nearly 400 names – a small step toward building public awareness of Canada’s complicity in this desecration of democracy and human rights.

In the meantime, a death squad killed five more people on a street corner on Dec. 6. A human rights worker with links to Amnesty International was murdered on Dec. 14. The teenaged daughter of a critical journalist was found dead on Dec. 16. Repression has increased and turned even more vicious and calculated since the farce elections; the regime has evidently been emboldened by their successful misrepresentation of the fiesta democratica and the willingness of the international media to ignore the reality facing the majority of Hondurans. Nonetheless, the resistance continues, having realized long ago that this will be a long struggle. It is hard to predict at this point what shape the struggle will take in the coming months, though it is clear that the Jan. 27th transfer of power to golpe-President-elect Pepe Lobo – Pepe Robo (the Robber) as the walls call him – will be another flashpoint for the resistance. “The police keep telling us they will come to our homes and take us away, and it makes us want to run,” says Francisca, a high school teacher in Comayagua. “But we have worked too hard for too long to build the homes we have.” •

Tyler Shipley is a doctoral candidate and activist from Toronto, Canada. He did research and human rights observation in Tegucigalpa with a delegation organized by Rights Action, reporting on the resistance to the coup and the Nov. 29 elections. The entire photo essay “Honduras Police State – A Week In Pictures” is at available at toronto.mediacoop.ca.

Notes

1. Joan Kruckewitt, “U.S. Militarization of Honduras in the 1980s and the Creation of CIA-backed Death Squads,” in Cecilia Mejivar and Nestor Rodriguez, When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror, University of Texas Press, Austin, TX, 2005.

2. Official Statement by representatives of CODEH, COFADEH, FIAN, CDM, CPTRT, CIPRODEH to the TSE, Nov. 28, 2009. Translated from Spanish.

3. Ibid.

4. Statement on the National Elections in Honduras, Washington Senior Observer Group, December 1, 2009.

5. Peter Kent, “Canada Congratulates Honduran People on Elections,” December 1, 2009.

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