Archive | May 29th, 2016

Britain’s Prevent strategy: Potential implications for civil liberties

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Policeman holding a camera

By Ruth Tenne

The British government’s Prevent strategy, whose purpose is to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism, is having a big impact on community policing and counter terrorism.

The strategy was initially deployed in 2007 by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as a communities-focused one. However, in 2011 the Home Office significantly revised the strategy and made it oriented mainly towards risks of extremism and heavily reliant on police resources.

Police-led approach

That is clearly stated in a paper issued by the London Assembly which argues that although it is “necessary for police, government, and public authorities to challenge and counter violent extremism”,

in the Prevent strategy’s current form, community leadership is secondary to an approach led by the government. Rather than engaging communities, the strategy fixates on ideology and deviance from “British values” to identify so-called “extremists” for police and governmental intervention. This policy perspective is based on a theorisation of radicalisation as a religious and political process rather than one related specifically to violence…

This has led the strategy to identify “extremism” as both violent and non-violent and presents serious concerns to civil liberties, and blurs the lines between religious conservatism and violent extremism.

The policy paper goes on to say:

We argue that the current strategy’s centralised and top-down deployment markedly reduces local capacity to find tailored solutions that make sense for any community… In particular, after the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 and the establishment of a Prevent duty, we have seen the erosion of the ownership local governments have over the implementation of Prevent.

Policing thought?

During his recent visit to UK the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, lawyer Maina Kiai, raised concerns about the government’s plans for a forthcoming counter-extremism bill, which is expected to include provisions to allow for the banning of groups deemed to be promoting non-violent extremism.

I urge the government to carefully consider the negative unintended consequences of such provisions. It is difficult to define the term “non-violent extremist” without treading into the territory of policing thought and opinion. Innocent individuals will be targeted.

This warning was echoed by dozens of UK academics in a letter to theIndependent in which they argued that

Prevent will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent. It will create an environment in which political change can no longer be discussed openly, and will withdraw to unsupervised spaces. Therefore, Prevent will make us less safe.

Those worries are further supported by Les Levidow’s article in the newsletter of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. It reports on a number of events which have been cancelled, or blocked, by local authorities under the Prevent strategy for criticising the government’s foreign policies and actions.

In his article Levidow argues that under the Prevent programme

Muslims have been the main target. They have been monitored and reported for “extremist” views that are seen as normal dissent if expressed by non-Muslims. Yet any group’s criticism of UK foreign policy has been increasingly labelled and monitored as “extremist”.

More recently, bank accounts of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and its local branch in Camden, as well as those of other pro-Palestinian organisations, have been closed by the Cooperative Bank whose management did not offer any explanation for this unexpected closure.

…a leaflet circulated by Camden Council in 2015 suggested that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies” or “showing mistrust towards mainstream media” were potential warning signs of radicalisation.

The Prevent programme has become part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which imposes a legal obligations on public servants , such as, teachers, university lecturers and doctors, to inform the police about any person who is suspected to be “radicalised”, or expressing “extremist” views. Public bodies have to monitor such views and report them to Home Office representatives, who are embedded in local authorities and the police forces. Consequently, local authorities with relatively large population of ethnic or religious minority groups appear to show greater concern over entities and groups that hold so-called “controversial” views.

According to Les Levidow’s article, Camden Council has cancelled, on “security” grounds, a special conference about Islamophobia which was to be held by Birkbeck College (2014). Furthermore, a leaflet circulated by Camden Council in 2015 suggested that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies”, or “showing mistrust towards mainstream media” were potential warning signs of radicalisation. That seemed to have prompted protests from Muslims and others who argued that the government was endorsing the unacceptable policing of thoughts and ideas.

Local implications

In view of the above-mentioned developments, Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign has written to the local council to express its worries about the potential implications of Prevent for its actions in support of the Palestinian cause and the active stance it takes against Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

The letter added:

We also believe that many pro-Palestinian residents of Camden may read the negative coverage of the Prevent strategy in the national media and live in fear of expressing their legitimate views. Those who have a duty to apply the Prevent strategy in Camden’s schools, community centres and places of worship will need your guidance to distinguish between legitimate protests and violent extremism. They would often lack the necessary information and will rely on your advice.

The letter went on to suggest a meeting with Camden Council’s representatives to discuss those issues and “ensure that the implementation of Prevent in Camden does not end up stifling legitimate dissent and further alienating some of the communities that, sadly, are already the target of recruitment efforts by terrorist organisations”.

In response, the senior policy officer for community safety wrote back to say that Camden Council’s

delivery of the Prevent strategy is directed by the Home Office and we focus on our safeguarding duty as a local authority. We can assure you that we will not be influenced to distort our delivery of the Prevent strategy in the way that you describe in your email.

Having been assured by Camden Council that its delivery of the Prevent strategy would not impact negatively on the civil liberties of minority groups and the freedom of expression of human rights groups, such as Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign, members of the campaign felt that the council’s assurance ought to be made public.

A letter to Camden New Journal highlighting the assurance received from Camden Council, as well as giving publicity to Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s work for Palestinian human rights, said:

We are pleased to inform readers that Camden Council has assured us it has no intention of interpreting the Prevent strategy in a way that would threaten non-violent forms of resistance against Israel’s apartheid regime in the occupied West Bank and against the economic blockade of Gaza. Camden has a proud history of solidarity with the struggle against Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. It is the same spirit of solidarity for the victims of racism (in all its forms) that inspires our work in support of the men, women and children of Palestine. We shall continue our struggle for human rights in Palestine.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, of which the Camden group is a branch,says on its website:

We believe that when people stand together we have the power to change the course of history. So we are building a mass movement for Palestine, with people from all walks of life. Together we are standing up to our government, big business and the media, making it clear that occupation, the flouting of international law, and state-sanctioned discrimination are not acceptable.

It is hoped that the applications of Prevent strategy by central and local governments, and the police would not stand in the way of defending the human rights of the Palestinian and the civil liberties of ethnic and religious groups in the UK.

“They who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” (Benjamin Franklin, 1755)

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Catastrophe Denied ‘VIDEO’

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Image result for global warming CARTOON

This video is a critique of catastrophic man-made global warming theory, based on presentation slides used in a series of public presentations and debates in late 2009 and early 2010. The author is Warren Meyer, author of the web site climate-skeptic.com.

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Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars

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By S. Brian Willson

Celebration of Memorial Day in the US, originally Decoration Day, commenced shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War. This is a national holiday to remember the people who died while serving in the armed forces. The day traditionally includes decorating graves of the fallen with flowers.

As a Viet Nam veteran, I know the kinds of pain and suffering incurred by over three million US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen, 58,313 of whom paid the ultimate price whose names are on The Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC. The Oregon Vietnam Memorial Wall alone, located here in Portland, contains 803 names on its walls.

The function of a memorial is to preserve memory. On this US Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, I want to preserve the memory of all aspects of the US war waged against the Southeast Asian people in Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia – what we call the Viet Nam War – as well as the tragic impacts it had on our own people and culture. My own healing and recovery requires me to honestly describe the war and understand how it has impacted me psychically, spiritually, and politically.

Likewise, the same remembrance needs to be practiced for both our soldiers and the victims in all the other countries affected by US wars and aggression. For example, the US incurred nearly 7,000 soldier deaths while causing as many as one million in Afghanistan and Iraq alone, a ratio of 1:143.

It is important to identify very concretely the pain and suffering we caused the Vietnamese – a people who only wanted to be independent from foreign occupiers, whether Chinese, France, Japan, or the United States of America. As honorably, and in some cases heroically, our military served and fought in Southeast Asia, we were nonetheless serving as cannon fodder, in effect mercenaries for reasons other than what we were told. When I came to understand the true nature of the war, I felt betrayed by my government, by my religion, by my cultural conditioning into “American Exceptionalism,” which did a terrible disservice to my own humanity, my own life’s journey. Thus, telling the truth as I uncover it is necessary for recovering my own dignity.

I am staggered by the amount of firepower the US used, and the incredible death and destruction it caused on an innocent people. Here are some statistics:

–Seventy-five percent of South Viet Nam was considered a free-fire zone (i.e., genocidal zones)

–Over 6 million Southeast Asians killed

–Over 64,000 US and Allied soldiers killed

–Over 1,600 US soldiers, and 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers remain missing

–Thousands of amputees, paraplegics, blind, deaf, and other maimings created

–13,000 of 21,000 of Vietnamese villages, or 62 percent, severely damaged or destroyed, mostly by bombing

–Nearly 950 churches and pagodas destroyed by bombing

–350 hospitals and 1,500 maternity wards destroyed by bombing

–Nearly 3,000 high schools and universities destroyed by bombing

–Over 15,000 bridges destroyed by bombing

–10 million cubic meters of dikes destroyed by bombing

–Over 3,700 US fixed-wing aircraft lost

–36,125,000 US helicopter sorties during the war; over 10,000 helicopters were lost or severely damaged

–26 million bomb craters created, the majority from B-52s (a B-52 bomb crater could be 20 feet deep, and 40 feet across)

–39 million acres of land in Indochina (or 91 percent of the land area of South Viet Nam) were littered with fragments of bombs and shells, equivalent to 244,000 (160 acre) farms, or an area the size of all New England except Connecticut

–21 million gallons (80 million liters) of extremely poisonous chemicals (herbicides) were applied in 20,000 chemical spraying missions between 1961 and 1970 in the most intensive use of chemical warfare in human history, with as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese living in nearly 3,200 villages directly sprayed by the chemicals

–24 percent, or 16,100 square miles, of South Viet Nam was sprayed, an area larger than the states of Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined, killing tropical forest, food crops, and inland forests

–Over 500,000 Vietnamese have died from chronic conditions related to chemical spraying with an estimated 650,000 still suffering from such conditions; 500,000 children have been born with Agent Orange-induced birth defects, now including third generation offspring

–Nearly 375,000 tons of fireballing napalm was dropped on villages

–Huge Rome Plows (made in Rome, Georgia), 20-ton earthmoving D7E Caterpillar tractors, fitted with a nearly 2.5-ton curved 11-foot wide attached blade protected by 14 additional tons of armor plate, scraped clean between 700,000 and 750,000 acres (1,200 square miles), an area equivalent to Rhode Island, leaving bare earth, rocks, and smashed trees

–As many as 36,000,000 total tons of ordance expended from aerial and naval bombing, artillery, and ground combat firepower. On an average day US artillery expended 10,000 rounds costing $1 million per day; 150,000-300,000 tons of UXO remain scattered around Southeast Asia: 40,000 have been killed in Viet Nam since the end of the war in 1975, and nearly 70,000 injured; 20,000 Laotians have been killed or injured since the end of the war

–7 billion gallons of fuel were consumed by US forces during the war

–If there was space for all 6,000,000 names of Southeast Asian dead on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, it would be over 9 sobering miles long, or nearly 100 times its current 493 foot length

I am not able to memorialize our sacrificed US soldiers without also remembering the death and destroyed civilian infrastructure we caused in our illegal invasion and occupation of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. It has been 47 years since I carried out my duties in Viet Nam. My “service” included being an eyewitness to the aftermath of bombings from the air of undefended fishing villages where virtually all the inhabitants were massacred, the vast majority being small children. In that experience, I felt complicit in a diabolical crime against humanity. This experience led me to deeply grasping that I am not worth more than any other human being, and they are not worth less than me.

Recently I spent more than three weeks in Viet Nam, my first trip back since involuntarily being sent there in 1969. I was struck by the multitudes of children suffering from birth defects, most caused presumably by the US chemical spraying some 50 years ago. I experienced deep angst knowing that the US is directly responsible for this genetic damage now being passed on from one generation to the next. I am ashamed that the US government has never acknowledged responsibility or paid reparations. I found myself apologizing to the people for the crimes of my country.

When we only memorialize US soldiers while ignoring the victims of our aggression, we in effect are memorializing war. I cannot do that. War is insane, and our country continues to perpetuate its insanity on others, having been constantly at war since at least 1991. We fail our duties as citizens if we remain silent rather than calling our US wars for what they are – criminal and deceitful aggressions violating international and US law to assure control of geostrategic resources, deemed necessary to further our insatiable American Way Of Life (AWOL).

Memorial Day for me requires remembering all of the deaths and devastation of our wars, and it should remind all of us of the need to end the madness. If we want to end war, we must begin to directly address our out-of-control capitalist political economy that knows no limits to profits for a few at the expense of the many, including our soldiers.

bloodontracksS. Brian Willson, as a 1st lieutenant, served as commander of a US Air Force combat security police unit in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta in 1969. He is a trained lawyer who has been an anti-war, peace and justice activist for more than forty years. His psychohistorical memoir, Blood On The Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson was published in 2011 by PM Press. A long time member of Veterans For Peace, he currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

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25 Rules of Disinformation, Propaganda, “PSYOPS”, Debunking Techniques

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25

By Kristan T. Harris 

25 Rules of Disinformation – Possible rules of Operation Mocking Bird

PROPAGANDA, “PSYOPS”, DEBUNKING TECHNIQUES

Twenty-Five Rules of Disinformation

1. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. Regardless of what you know, don’t discuss it — especially if you are a public figure, news anchor, etc. If it’s not reported, it didn’t happen, and you never have to deal with the issues.

2. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the “How dare you!” gambit.

3. Create rumor mongers. Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations. Other derogatory terms mutually exclusive of truth may work as well. This method works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public can learn of the facts are through such “arguable rumors”. If you can associate the material with the Internet, use this fact to certify it a “wild rumor” which can have no basis in fact.

4. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent’s argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.

5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary attack the messenger ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as “kooks”, “right-wing”, “liberal”, “left-wing”, “terrorists”, “conspiracy buffs”, “radicals”, “militia”, “racists”, “religious fanatics”, “sexual deviates”, and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

6. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism reasoning — simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent’s viewpoint.

7. Question motives. Twist or amplify any fact which could so taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.

8. Invoke authority. Claim for yourself or associate yourself with authority and present your argument with enough “jargon” and “minutiae” to illustrate you are “one who knows”, and simply say it isn’t so without discussing issues or demonstrating concretely why or citing sources.

9. Play Dumb. No matter what evidence or logical argument is offered, avoid discussing issues with denial they have any credibility, make any sense, provide any proof, contain or make a point, have logic, or support a conclusion. Mix well for maximum effect.

10. Associate opponent charges with old news. A derivative of the straw man usually, in any large-scale matter of high visibility, someone will make charges early on which can be or were already easily dealt with. Where it can be foreseen, have your own side raise a straw man issue and have it dealt with early on as part of the initial contingency plans. Subsequent charges, regardless of validity or new ground uncovered, can usually them be associated with the original charge and dismissed as simply being a rehash without need to address current issues — so much the better where the opponent is or was involved with the original source.

11. Establish and rely upon fall-back positions. Using a minor matter or element of the facts, take the “high road” and “confess” with candor that some innocent mistake, in hindsight, was made — but that opponents have seized on the opportunity to blow it all out of proportion and imply greater criminalities which, “just isn’t so.” Others can reinforce this on your behalf, later. Done properly, this can garner sympathy and respect for “coming clean” and “owning up” to your mistakes without addressing more serious issues.

12. Enigmas have no solution. Drawing upon the overall umbrella of events surrounding the crime and the multitude of players and events, paint the entire affair as too complex to solve. This causes those otherwise following the matter to begin to loose interest more quickly without having to address the actual issues.

13. Alice in Wonderland Logic. Avoid discussion of the issues by reasoning backwards with an apparent deductive logic in a way that forbears any actual material fact.

14. Demand complete solutions. Avoid the issues by requiring opponents to solve the crime at hand completely, a ploy which works best for items qualifying for rule 10.

15. Fit the facts to alternate conclusions. This requires creative thinking unless the crime was planned with contingency conclusions in place.

16. Vanishing evidence and witnesses. If it does not exist, it is not fact, and you won’t have to address the issue.

17. Change the subject. Usually in connection with one of the other ploys listed here, find a way to side-track the discussion with abrasive or controversial comments in hopes of turning attention to a new, more manageable topic. This works especially well with companions who can “argue” with you over the new topic and polarize the discussion arena in order to avoid discussing more key issues.

18. Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents. If you can’t do anything else, chide and taunt your opponents and draw them into emotional responses which will tend to make them look foolish and overly motivated, and generally render their material somewhat less coherent. Not only will you avoid discussing the issues in the first instance, but even if their emotional response addresses the issue, you can further avoid the issues by then focusing on how “sensitive they are to criticism”.

19. Ignore proof presented, demand impossible proofs. This is perhaps a variant of the “play dumb” rule. Regardless of what material may be presented by an opponent in public forums, claim the material irrelevant and demand proof that is impossible for the opponent to come by (it may exist, but not be at his disposal, or it may be something which is known to be safely destroyed or withheld, such as a murder weapon). In order to completely avoid discussing issues may require you to categorically deny and be critical of media or books as valid sources, deny that witnesses are acceptable, or even deny that statements made by government or other authorities have any meaning or relevance.

20. False evidence. Whenever possible, introduce new facts or clues designed and manufactured to conflict with opponent presentations as useful tools to neutralize sensitive issues or impede resolution. This works best when the crime was designed with contingencies for the purpose, and the facts cannot be easily separated from the fabrications.

21. Call a Grand Jury, Special Prosecutor, or other empowered investigative body. Subvert the (process) to your benefit and effectively neutralize all sensitive issues without open discussion. Once convened, the evidence and testimony are required to be secret when properly handled. For instance, if you own the prosecuting attorney, it can insure a Grand Jury hears no useful evidence and that the evidence is sealed an unavailable to subsequent investigators. Once a favorable verdict (usually, this technique is applied to find the guilty innocent, but it can also be used to obtain charges when seeking to frame a victim) is achieved, the matter can be considered officially closed.

22. Manufacture a new truth. Create your own expert(s), group(s), author(s), leader(s) or influence existing ones willing to forge new ground via scientific, investigative, or social research or testimony which concludes favorably. In this way, if you must actually address issues, you can do so authoritatively.

23. Create bigger distractions. If the above does not seem to be working to distract from sensitive issues, or to prevent unwanted media coverage of unstoppable events such as trials, create bigger news stories (or treat them as such) to distract the multitudes.

24. Silence critics. If the above methods do not prevail, consider removing opponents from circulation by some definitive solution so that the need to address issues is removed entirely. This can be by their *****, arrest and detention, blackmail or destruction of their character by release of blackmail information, or merely by proper intimidation with blackmail or other threats.

25. Vanish. If you are a key holder of secrets or otherwise overly illuminated and you think the heat is getting too hot, to avoid the issues, vacate the kitchen.

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Britain’s Secret Drug-Running Operations in Colombia

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Anti Muslim hate crimes rising in UK Altagreer
By T.J. Coles 

Since the 1980s, when Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service started operating in Colombia, special forces on all sides have been killing rival drug gangs and even counter-narcotics police units. This amounts to a proxy drug-smuggling network, which Britain has aided for decades.

Cocaine is a huge industry, worth some $60 billion per annum. Coke is mainly a middle-class drug, used by politicians, models, film stars, and people in music, media, and other industries. More importantly, coke and other drug monies are untraceable and can be used for military black ops. A great deal is known about the US Central Intelligence Agency’s s role in drug running. Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin , Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance, and Douglas Valentine’s The Strength of the Wolf are vital exposés. Much less is known about MI6’s role.

NETWORKS UNDER THATCHER

According to Grace Livingstone, throughout the 1980s, drug barons, paramilitaries, and members of the Colombia government began a heavy drug-money laundering campaign via land purchases, acquiring 10% of the country.

The connections between drugs and politics are such that the Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels funded President Ernesto Samper’s 1998 election campaign. Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel attempted to get farmers to cultivate coca, which, initially, the FARC opposed. FARC is the Marxist-turned-terrorist resistance group which calls for more equal land reform. According to Livingstone, Escobar’s money laundering greatly aided the poor (undercutting FARC’s campaign advantage) to the extent that churches praised his urban regeneration initiatives.

Initially, Britain backed Escobar, until, it would seem, his poverty relief efforts got out of hand and ended up undermining big business. The Ford-sponsored Women’s Commission commented on the “narcotrade-financed paramilitary forces,” adding that they “often [work] with the support or acquiescence of [UK trained- and armed] Colombian police and military forces.”

The standard propaganda is that SAS assassins were sent by Prime Minister Thatcher in 1989 at the behest of President Barco, “to fight the drug cartels.” In the real world, they were sent to fight the FARC cartels. By 1985, the wealthy Asociación Campesina de Agricultores y Ganaderos del Magdalena Medio (ACDEGAM) “had powerful new members: drug traffickers who bought land in the Middle Magdalena,” Human Rights Watch reported, adding that, “In 1987 and 1988, the [ACDEGAM] even sponsored training centers with foreign instructors from Israel and Great Britain.”

A 1990 inquiry led by Louis Blom-Cooper QC revealed that “British mercenaries had been training the [Medellin] cartel’s death squads,” and that successive British governments “turned a blind eye to the sale of weapons to the Medellin cartel.” The Financial Times reported that in 1988, ex-SAS mercenaries worked with the former Israeli Colonel Yair Gal Klein’s Spearhead company to arm and train the Medellin cartel, and, again, “the British government ha[d] turned a blind eye.”

Mercenary firms cannot operate without the approval of the Foreign Office.

NETWORKS UNDER BLAIR

Britain’s active support for the drugs trade continues.

“In May 2006 troops of a High Mountain Battalion (whose members receive UK military assistance) were ordered by their commanding officer to ambush and kill ten counter-narcotics police officers near the town of Jamundi in the region of Valle del Cauca,” according to a detailed account by the Justice for Colombia group. “Small teams of SAS specialists rotate routinely through Bogota, and work with General Serrano’s main unit, La Jungla,” reports David Smith. The Independent notes that “Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, a fierce opponent of the drug trade, was assassinated, some Colombian government sources say, by British mercenaries.”

Former SAS mercenary David Tomkins was “due to appear before US District Judge Adalberto Jordan” for his alleged role in the attempted murder of Escobar, whom, as noted, appeared to have fallen out of favour with Britain and America after diverting coke money to the poor. “US officials [say Tomkins] will avoid trial and have time off his sentence,” indicating that he is still a secret ally. Tomkins “planned an attack on the drug lord’s stronghold at the Hacienda Napoles, east of Medellin,” the paper reported, but the “helicopter flew into a mountainside, killing the pilot. Tomkins and his associate Peter McAleese, a former SAS officer, were forced to walk three days to safety through the Colombian jungle.”

More recently, the International Crisis Group noted that Colombian police “seized [a] USB memory stick of a key alleged associate of Daniel Barrera (alias “Loco Barrera”), a drug lord …, that reportedly contained a detailed monthly payroll of over $1.5 million for 890 politicians, military and justice officers and informants,” indicating the levels of politico-drug interconnections throughout the country. In 2003, the late Pedro Juan Moreno, Chief of Staff in Antioquia, was accused of drug-running by US Customs, which seized shipments of potassium permanganate.

The London Progressive Journal writes: “[that] the British government is unconcerned as to who it is working with was [demonstrated] in December 2007,” when then-Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells “was photographed with soldiers of the High Mountain Battalions.” The paper adds that “Howells also posed for the camera alongside General Mario Montoya; a man [who] has a 30 year history of involvement with right wing paramilitaries, death squads and drug traffickers.”

NETWORKS UNDER CAMERON

Colombia’s coke is mainly channelled to Europe via the Caribbean, and to the US through Mexico. In July 2012, a US Congress report into HSBC’s involvement in drug laundering found that “the Mexican affiliate of HSBC transported $7 billion in physical US dollars to HSBUS from 2007 to 2008, outstripping other Mexican banks, even one twice its size, raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in US.” Forbes reports that “HSBC actively circumvented rules designed to “block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords, and rogue regimes”—the latter referring to Iran and Syria.

The Daily Mail reports: “Concerns over the bank’s links to Mexican drug dealers included £1.3 billion stashed in accounts in the Cayman Islands. One HSBC compliance officer admitted the accounts were misused by ‘organised crime’.” The Daily Mail also notes that David Cameron’s Trade Minister, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, “chaired HSBC during the period covered by the allegations.” Labour MP John Mann said of Lord Green: “Someone whose bank has been assisting murdering drug cartels and corrupt regimes across the world should not be in charge of a government portfolio.”

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Hillary Clinton’s Memoir Deletions, in Detail

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Image result for Hillary Clinton CARTOON
By Ming Chun Tang 

As was reported following the assassination of prominent Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres in March, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton erased all references to the 2009 coup in Honduras in the paperback edition of her memoirs, “Hard Choices.” Her three-page account of the coup in the original hardcover edition, where she admitted to having sanctioned it, was one of several lengthy sections cut from the paperback, published in April 2015 shortly after she had launched her presidential campaign.

A short, inconspicuous statement on the copyright page is the only indication that “a limited number of sections” — amounting to roughly 96 pages — had been cut “to accommodate a shorter length for this edition.” Many of the abridgements consist of narrative and description and are largely trivial, but there are a number of sections that were deleted from the original that also deserve attention.

Colombia

Clinton’s take on Plan Colombia, a U.S. program furnishing (predominantly military) aid to Colombia to combat both the FARC and ELN rebels as well as drug cartels, and introduced under her husband’s administration in 2000, adopts a much more favorable tone in the paperback compared to the original. She begins both versions by praising the initiative as a model for Mexico — a highly controversial claim given the sharp rise in extrajudicial killings and the proliferation of paramilitary death squads in Colombia since the program was launched.

The two versions then diverge considerably. In the original, she explains that the program was expanded by Colombian President Álvaro Uribe “with strong support from the Bush Administration” and acknowledges that “new concerns began to arise about human rights abuses, violence against labor organizers, targeted assassinations, and the atrocities of right-wing paramilitary groups.” Seeming to place the blame for these atrocities on the Uribe and Bush governments, she then claims to have “made the choice to continue America’s bipartisan support for Plan Colombia” regardless during her tenure as secretary of state, albeit with an increased emphasis on “governance, education and development.”

By contrast, the paperback makes no acknowledgment of these abuses or even of the fact that the program was widely expanded in the 2000s. Instead, it simply makes the case that the Obama administration decided to build on President Clinton’s efforts to help Colombia overcome its drug-related violence and the FARC insurgency — apparently leading to “an unprecedented measure of security and prosperity” by the time of her visit to Bogotá in 2010.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Also found in the original is a paragraph where Clinton discusses her efforts to encourage other countries in the Americas to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement during a regional conference in El Salvador in June 2009:

So we worked hard to improve and ratify trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and encouraged Canada and the group of countries that became known as the Pacific Alliance — Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile — all open-market democracies driving toward a more prosperous future to join negotiations with Asian nations on TPP, the trans-Pacific trade agreement.

Clinton praises Latin America for its high rate of economic growth, which she revealingly claims has produced “more than 50 million new middle-class consumers eager to buy U.S. goods and services.” She also admits that the region’s inequality is “still among the worst in the world” with much of its population “locked in persistent poverty” — even while the TPP that she has advocated strongly for threatens to exacerbate the region’s underdevelopment, just as NAFTA caused the Mexican economy to stagnate.

Last October, however, she publicly reversed her stance on the TPP under pressure from fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Likewise, the entire two-page section on the conference in El Salvador where she expresses her support for the TPP is missing from the paperback.

Brazil

In her original account of her efforts to prevent Cuba from being admitted to the Organization of American States (OAS) in June 2009, Clinton singles out Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a potential mediator who could help “broker a compromise” between the U.S. and the left-leaning governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Her assessment of Lula, removed from the paperback, is mixed:

As Brazil’s economy grew, so did Lula’s assertiveness in foreign policy. He envisioned Brazil becoming a major world power, and his actions led to both constructive cooperation and some frustrations. For example, in 2004 Lula sent troops to lead the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, where they did an excellent job of providing order and security under difficult conditions. On the other hand, he insisted on working with Turkey to cut a side deal with Iran on its nuclear program that did not meet the international community’s requirements.

It is notable that the “difficult conditions” in Haiti that Clinton refers to was a period of perhaps the worst human rights crisis in the hemisphere at the time, following the U.S.-backed coup d’etat against democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Researchers estimate that some 4,000 people were killed for political reasons, and some 35,000 women and girls sexually assaulted. As various human rights investigators, journalists and other eyewitnesses noted at the time, some of the most heinous of these atrocities were carried out by Haiti’s National Police, with U.N. troops often providing support — when they were not engaging in them directly. WikiLeaked State Department cables, however, reveal that the State Department saw the U.N. mission as strategically important, in part because it helped to isolate Venezuela from other countries in the region, and because it allowed the U.S. to manage Haiti on the cheap.

In contrast to Lula, Clinton heaps praise on Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was recently suspended from office pending impeachment proceedings:

Later I would enjoy working with Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégée, Chief of Staff, and eventual successor as President. On January 1, 2011, I attended her inauguration on a rainy but festive day in Brasilia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the country’s first woman President drove by in a 1952 Rolls-Royce. She took the oath of office and accepted the traditional green and gold Presidential sash from her mentor, Lula, pledging to continue his work on eradicating poverty and inequality. She also acknowledged the history she was making. “Today, all Brazilian women should feel proud and happy.” Dilma is a formidable leader whom I admire and like.

The paperback version deletes almost all references to Rousseff, mentioning her only once as an alleged target of NSA spying according to Edward Snowden.

The Arab Spring

By far the lengthiest deletion in Clinton’s memoirs consists of a ten-page section discussing the Arab Spring in Jordan, Libya and the Persian Gulf region — amounting to almost half of the chapter. Having detailed her administration’s response to the mass demonstrations that had started in Tunisia before spreading to Egypt, then Jordan, then Bahrain and Libya, Clinton openly recognizes the profound contradictions at the heart of the U.S.’ relationship with its Gulf allies:

The United States had developed deep economic and strategic ties to these wealthy, conservative monarchies, even as we made no secret of our concerns about human rights abuses, especially the treatment of women and minorities, and the export of extremist ideology. Every U.S. administration wrestled with the contradictions of our policy towards the Gulf.

And it was appalling that money from the Gulf continued funding extremist madrassas and propaganda all over the world. At the same time, these governments shared many of our top security concerns.

Thanks to these shared “security concerns,” particularly those surrounding al-Qaeda and Iran, her administration strengthened diplomatic ties and sold vast amounts of military equipment to these countries:

The United States sold large amounts of military equipment to the Gulf states, and stationed the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, and maintained troops in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, as well as key bases in other countries. When I became Secretary I developed personal relationships with Gulf leaders both individually and as a group through the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Clinton continues to reveal that the U.S.’ common interests with its Gulf allies extended well beyond mere security issues and in fact included the objective of regime change in Libya — which led the Obama administration into a self-inflicted dilemma as it weighed the ramifications of condemning the violent repression of protests in Bahrain with the need to build an international coalition, involving a number of Gulf states, to help remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddhafi from power:

Our values and conscience demanded that the United States condemn the violence against civilians we were seeing in Bahrain, full stop. After all, that was the very principle at play in Libya. But if we persisted, the carefully constructed international coalition to stop Qaddafi could collapse at the eleventh hour, and we might fail to prevent a much larger abuse — a full-fledged massacre.

Instead of delving into the complexities of the U.S.’ alliances in the Middle East, the entire discussion is simply deleted, replaced by a pensive reflection on prospects for democracy in Egypt, making no reference to the Gulf region at all. Having been uncharacteristically candid in assessing the U.S.’ response to the Arab Spring, Clinton chose to ignore these obvious inconsistencies — electing instead to proclaim the Obama administration as a champion of democracy and human rights across the Arab world.

Posted in USAComments Off on Hillary Clinton’s Memoir Deletions, in Detail

Nobel Laureate: “Plan Condor Should Never Have Happened”

NOVANEWS

21_golpe_de_banzer

In Bolivia, a CIA-backed military coup led to the overthrow of leftist President Juan Torres. Following the coup, dictator Hugo Banzer had over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, tortured, raped and executed.

teleSUR 

Adolfo Perez Esquivel voiced his opposition to celebrations over the conviction of 15 military officials in Argentina. In his view, there is nothing to celebrate.

Perez Esquivel, recipient of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize, said Friday that Plan Condor was a conspiracy to kill leftist movements in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In his view, there is no reason to celebrate the conviction of those who participated in Plan Condor in Argentina. An Argentine court found 15 military officials guilty Friday.

“Plan Condor should never have happened,” the Argentine Nobel laureate and human rights defender wrote on the social network Twitter.

5_nunca-mas

Photographs of the disappeared in Argentina. Photo:Colección AGRA, Archivo Memoria Activa

After the sentencing of several of the military officials, Chilean journalist and diplomat Odette Magnet said “justice was achieved, but we need the truth,” referring to her sister Maria Cecilia Magnet who was disappeared during the dictatorship in the country.

The journalist explained that for 40 years she has played an active role in seeking the truth about repression during the military dictatorships in Latin America.

“I want to know where they are, where (the death squads) threw them, where all the victims of this macabre plan are,” Magnet said. Officials from the dictatorships across Latin America would often throw victims out of helicopters and airplanes into the ocean.

“Nobody knows what really happened to our people, we have no information because the murderers do not speak, they will not talk and that is very frustrating because we have the facts,” Magnet concluded.

RELATED:

Argentine Military Officials Guilty for Plan Condor Crimes

Posted in South AmericaComments Off on Nobel Laureate: “Plan Condor Should Never Have Happened”

Media War Against Venezuela Kicks into High Gear

NOVANEWS
Maduro cumple un ano electo
teleSUR 

The media war against the democratically elected government of Venezuela kicked into high gear recently.

It is no coincidence that over the past few weeks a series of damning articles have come out touting the allegedly imminent collapse of the Venezuelan government.

These come on the heels of a recent editorial by the Washington Post that resorted to outright lies to justify its effort to promote regime change in Venezuela.

Meanwhile certain heads-of-government, such as Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and Paraguay’s Horacio Cartes who both have strong ties to Washington, have made provocative statements meant to try to isolate Venezuela in the international community.

There is stratagem afoot. Venezuela is passing through a difficult moment and the enemies of the Bolivarian Revolution smell blood.

Those old enough to remember the lead up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq know that these kinds of campaigns always predate foreign intervention.

For those quick to level the charge of conspiracy, one need only look to Brazil where analysts and pundits warned for months that the impeachment of Brazil was actually a Machiavellian coup plot to oust the president.

Many expressed doubt but the coup allegations turned out to be irrefutably true after a leaked conversation by one of the coup-plotters spelled out the plan explicitly.

teleSUR takes a look at three of the worst examples of anti-Venezuelan propaganda masquerading as journalism.

1. The Guardian’s Nick Cohen Equates Solidarity with Sex Tourism

Cohen’s piece literally opens with the line, “Radical tourism is no different from sex tourism.”

He then equates those who seek to learn from the class struggle throughout the world with those who pay for sex in foreign countries.

Cohen then cherry picks information from questionable sources to disparage a government that has consistently won elections and always acknowledged the times they lost.

Cohen talks about Venezuela as if he lived there, when of course he hasn’t. He seeks out Venezuelans like Thor Halvorssen who agree with him and back-up his claims that the true champions of the oppressed are the right-wing politicians who ignored the poor for decades, before the arrival of Hugo Chavez in 1999.

But how much credibility can a man like Cohen — who backed the invasion of Iraq — have when he calls important thinkers such as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger “half-baked pseudo-left intellectual(s)”?

2. Venezuelans Long For Days of Elite Semi-Democracy… in the NY Times

The New York Times, which recently ran an editorial calling for a return of the days when Latin America was considered the “back yard” of the United States, is one of the loudest voices pushing for the ouster of Maduro.

It has featured article after article with one-sided stories that try to paint Venezuela as a failed state. It recently ran an op-ed by Emiliana Duarte, an upper class Venezuelan living in Caracas, which claimed Venezuelans are going hungry.

Duarte writes for the notoriously anti-government Caracas Chronicles, which the Times describes simply as a website for Venezuelan news.

She seems nostalgic for the pre-Chavez Venezuela, saying the country was once “the most stable democracy in South America.” What she doesn’t mention is that so-called stability came as a result of an elite pact between the leading political parties at the time, the Social Christians and Democratic Action.

This pact deliberately excluded leftist parties from having the opportunity to govern and led the elite semi-democracy known as the Fourth Republic. She laments the loss of the Fourth Republic’s institutions, yet fails to recognize that the failure of these same institutions are partly responsible for the rise of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Duarte also talks about how she has to “fill a suitcase with bags of rice and other grains” whenever she travels, leaving out the fact that regular international air travel is a privilege reserved only for the wealthy.

The suggestion that runs throughout is that Venezuelans are suffering through a hunger crisis, when the facts suggest otherwise as Venezuela remains well above the FAO’s minimum food security level.

3. BBC Commits Journalistic Crimes to Make its Case

The BBC’s Wyre Davies dedicated an entire article to downplaying the very real threat of a foreign military intervention in Venezuela, claiming it is nothing but a “spectre.”

It wasn’t that long ago that official U.S. policy was to install dictatorships throughout the region to do the bidding of elites. While Washington now talks about its respect for democracy, it backed recent coups in Haiti, Paraguay, Honduras and Brazil, not to mention the attempted 2002 coup to oust Hugo Chavez — in Venezuela, of course.

But Davies thinks a foreign intervention is a virtual impossibility.

He belittles the recent military exercises conducted by the Venezuelan Armed Forces. He puts scare quotes around the notion of spy planes, when two alleged U.S. planes were recently caught violating Venezuelan air space.

Davies suggests the military exercises are just a cover “to divert attention from what is really happening.”

To back up his assertion, he points to nameless experts, not once but twice. First he says that “many commentators” agree with his claims without quoting a single one.

Then he says the “real reason” behind the exercises is “to create the emergency conditions that would enable the armed forces to deal with internal dissent.”

Once again he attributes the idea to “observers” but doesn’t bother to name any.

Davies also asserts that President Maduro has “vowed to use (the Armed Forces) against opposition protesters.”

This is patently false. Maduro has never said such a thing.

In fact, opposition leader Henrique Capriles is the only one making open calls to the military to act against the people and rebel against Maduro.

Beyond that, the Venezuelan people and their Armed Forces have a special relationship. It was the military that rescued Venezuelan democracy after the short-lived, U.S.-sanctioned coup briefly ousted President Chavez from power in 2002 in the kind of foreign intervention Davies thinks is a mere specter.

RELATED:

Washington Post Lies to Justify Intervention in Venezuela

6 Coups Against Latin America’s Left Since 2000

IN DEPTH: 

Is There Hunger in Venezuela?

Posted in USA, VenezuelaComments Off on Media War Against Venezuela Kicks into High Gear

EU’s extension of Syria bans impede political settlement: Syrian official

NOVANEWS

Gulf countries and Syrian refugees Middle East Eye

A Syrian official has censured the European Union (EU)’s recent extension of sanctions against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, saying the move could be an impediment to efforts for finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

Khalaf Muftah, the head of the ruling Ba’ath Party’s department of culture and information, made the criticism in an interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Friday.

The EU bans are illegal and contradict international law and the United Nations (UN)’s Charter, Muftah said, adding, “These measures hamper the political process, because they increase the sufferings of the Syrian nation and do not promote the creation of conditions for a political dialogue with Europe.”

He further called for the lifting of the economic blockade on Syria, noting that the measure has led the Syrian nation to poverty and misery and forced people to migrate.

“The sanctions contradict the statement that migration has political causes, because the real cause is the economic blockade imposed by Europe,” he said.

The remarks came hours after the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, extended its sanctions against the government in Damascus until June 2017.

The bans include investment restrictions, an embargo on Syrian oil and a freeze on Syrian central bank assets within the 28-nation bloc. They also cover export restrictions on certain equipment and technologies as well as travel bans and asset freezes against more than 200 people and 70 entities.

The measures come as part of an EU decision in December 2014 to continue sanctions against Syria as long as what the bloc calls government repression goes on.

The development comes as some European countries and their regional allies are accused of supporting terrorist groups that have been wreaking havoc in the Arab country over the past five years.

Posted in Europe, SyriaComments Off on EU’s extension of Syria bans impede political settlement: Syrian official

Fact-checking the Heralded “End of the Latin American Left”

NOVANEWS
Morre o ator mexicano Roberto Bolanos o Chaves
By Peter Bolton 

Recent political developments across the region have prompted celebratory proclamations in the mainstream Western press that Latin America’s decades-long dominance by left-leaning governments is reaching its terminal stages. The landslide victory of the Venezuelan opposition in last December’s legislative elections, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and the triumph of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election do indeed seem to point to a region-wide decline in the fortunes of the parties of the Pink Tide. But as is so often the case in the mainstream media, commentators have been too quick to make current events fit neatly into overarching seismic shifts.  The cursory and often incomplete news reports on which they are based simply do not provide sufficient support for such catchall explanations. While scholars have naturally initiated a more nuanced and detailed debate to consider whether the region is indeed witnessing the end of a progressive cycle, press analyses have struck a premature and in many cases triumphalist tone by declaring the collapse of the Latin American left both imminent and beyond serious doubt.

In reality, it is the exact opposite that is beyond serious doubt: it is far too early to write off the future of the left in Latin America. Moreover, more research is needed to understand the dynamics of these movements and how things might play out in the coming months and years. But what is most disconcerting about these knee-jerk press responses is that the people making them seem to not even have a strong grasp of the basic facts surrounding the political developments on which they base their claims, let alone of the nuance needed to develop a sophisticated analysis. In a survey of the media declarations of the purportedly imminent collapse of the Latin American left, COHA has found a shocking collection of glaring and demonstrably false statements over basic matters of fact that reveal the profoundly slipshod nature of their research.

The salience of these findings can hardly be overstated: if journalists in the mainstream media cannot even get basic facts correct, they can hardly be trusted to provide a meaningful analysis of the larger picture.

Jackson Diehl

As predictable as the jeers from the DC commentariat were, perhaps the one figure within the Beltway punditry class who could have been most counted on to react gloatingly to the recent setbacks of leftist governments in Latin America was The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. Having been a reliable war hawk and right-wing militarist at the Post’s op-ed section since the late 1970s, Diehl was quick to turn his wrath on Pink Tide leaders and their supposedly grave threat to U.S. national security interests. In 2010 he repeated American Enterprise Institute scholar Roger Noriega’s accusation that then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was collaborating with Iran in the development of nuclear capabilities.[1] In 2013 he accused the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador of “gutting democratic institutions in their countries,” and described Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as “Latin America’s chief caudillo and Yanqui-baiter.”[2]

His characterization of the latest political developments, inexplicably posted at the Charleston-based Post and Courier rather than his home publication, fits seamlessly with this record of hysterical hyperbole and dubious accuracy. In the article’s first sentence he triumphantly announces: “The encouraging news from Latin America is that the leftist populists who for 15 years undermined the region’s democratic institutions and wrecked its economies are being pushed out — not by coups and juntas, but by democratic and constitutional means.”[3] From this outrageously loaded misrepresentation he quickly moves on to outright falsehoods by claiming that Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was “vanquished in a presidential election.”[4] From a simple Google search one can learn that she was in fact not even a candidate in last year’s presidential election.[5] Apparently Diehl cannot even get past his article’s second sentence without revealing his stupefying ignorance of the most basic of facts.

Aside from blatant inaccuracies, he also makes the remarkable claim that “most of the Western hemisphere is studiously ignoring this meltdown,” despite the fact that Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has been calling for months to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela.[6] If he is referring not to the OAS but rather to the leaders of the region’s governments, then he is simply confusing their indifference for Washington’s isolation in its condemnations of the Maduro government. Just as the United States was completely isolated in its refusal to recognize Maduro’s election victory in 2013, so it has been alone in calling for sanctions, for which it has lobbied on the basis of largely spurious allegations of human rights violations.

To round out his diatribe, Diehl then describes the “obstacles” to getting a recall referendum to remove President Maduro as “comically steep,” despite the fact that all of the figures he cites regarding the required numbers of petition signatures (which opposition activists need to gather to trigger the recall vote) are calculated from terms set out in Venezuela’s Constitution. By representing the recall referendum as offering the “slim remaining hopes for a democratic solution,” he implies that some sort of extra-democratic methods might be necessary, and presumably also justified.[7] Keep in mind that the provision for a recall referendum to remove a sitting president is a democratic mechanism that scarcely exists in any constitution besides Venezuela’s.

Rafael Ruiz Velasco

In an article published at the PanAm Post, Rafael Ruiz Velasco is just as hasty in his passage of judgment on the fate of Latin America’s left. He announces confidently that “the results are clear: the bet on socialism in Latin America has failed.”[8] But like Diehl, Velasco makes at least one glaring factual error that undermines his already highly suspect piece. He says of Brazil: “The Olympics will be held with a politically defeated Dilma Rousseff out of office, as she faces impeachment on corruption charges.”[9] The truth of the matter is that Rousseff is in fact one of the few leading Brazilian politicians not to be facing corruption charges.[10] Her impeachment was rather premised on vague accusations of fiscal mismanagement and budgetary irregularities[11]—hardly the high crimes that under normal circumstances would merit removal from office. Her replacement Michel Temer, on the other hand,does presently stand accused of corruption, and not over minor allegations either. In addition to being implicated in the country’s ongoing Petrobras scandal, he also stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections[12]; the exact kinds of things, ironically, that would normally be legitimate grounds for impeachment.

Either Velasco is conveniently ignoring these facts, or else just has a very weak understanding of the details of what is taking place in Brazilian politics. Indeed, much else in his article makes one wonder whether he is engaging in willful misrepresentation or is just plain clueless. To give just one example, Velasco describes Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Ignácio da Silva, as Brazil’s “figureheads of failure,” in spite of the four electoral victories they have won between them. Leveling this smear against da Silva, whose widespread popularity led to him being affectionately known as Lula, is particularly absurd given that he won both of his presidential election victories with over 60 percent of the vote and left office with 80 percent approval ratings.[13]

Antonio Sampaio

In an article for Foreign Policy magazine, provocatively titled “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Antonio Sampaio pulls no punches in his characterization of Rousseff’s impeachment, claiming that it “marks the final fall from grace not only of the president but also of her ruling Workers’ Party, which has run the country for 13 years.”[14] But one can only feel confounded when Sampaio concedes further down the article that “supporters of the government are right to point out that Rousseff herself is one of the few high-profile political figures who has not been accused of abusing her office for personal enrichment. (Her impeachment is related to alleged manipulation of public accounts to disguise a deficit).”[15] This stands in blatant contradiction to how he begins the article, with the claim that “the biggest corruption scandal in national history is revealing the extent to which Rousseff and her allies actively contributed to the rot of Brazil’s democratic institutions.”[16] It is simply unfathomable how he can lay the blame for the damage done to Brazil’s institutions by this scandal at the feet of Dilma Rousseff when he concedes in the same article that her impeachment has nothing to do with corruption. But in the world of Western press coverage of Latin America, this kind Orwellian doublethink does not seem to matter even when such contradictory statements are being made in the very same article.

Chicago Tribune/Orlando Sentinel

In a “Guest Editorial” in the Orlando Sentinel, the editors of the Chicago Tribune (I’m confused too) argue that the next U.S. president “will need to engage Latin America with a lot more purpose and resolve,” or else “Russia, Iran and China will.”[17] To their credit, they do concede that the recent setbacks of leftist leaders “do not necessarily mean a complete, sweeping repudiation of leftist populism,” since “the gap between the impoverished masses and the few wealthy elite still defines life for much if not all of the continent.” But rather than providing legitimate justifications for progressive policies, this grinding poverty and gross inequality apparently makes these countries “susceptible” to what they term “leftist agendas.”

But in addition to this patronizing jeer, the Tribune editors also make the exact same factual error as Jackson Diehl by claiming that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner “lost her re-election bid to Argentine center-right leader Mauricio Macri last fall.”[18] At the risk of repeating it ad nauseam, Kirchner did not stand in the election, and, moreover, was not even able to since the Argentine Constitution sets a limit of two consecutive presidential terms. Granted, her ruling Justicialist Party lost control of the executive to Macri’s rival Republican Proposal party, but the candidate for the Justicialists was Daniel Scioli[19] (a former vice-president during the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner). To those who might try to dismiss this correction as mere nitpicking, imagine what people in the United States would have thought if a foreign newspaper had reported in November 2008 that U.S. President George W. Bush had lost his re-election bid to Barack Obama. Such shoddy journalism would have surely delivered an instantly fatal blow to the publication’s credibility. But when a U.S. publication demonstrates an exactly analogous ignorance of basic facts about Latin America, its unfounded pronouncements and flimsy arguments still get taken seriously.

Further revealing their risible political illiteracy, the Tribune editors claim that the setbacks for the Latin American left have “all happened with virtually no coddling or stoking from the U.S.”[20] Either the authors have never read anything about the United States’ covert funding of Venezuelan opposition candidates and its threats of sanctions against the Maduro government, the meetings between major regional right-wing figures and allies in the U.S. Congress,[21] and the United States’ use of international organizations to weaken left-leaning governments, or else they are being deliberately duplicitous (and presumably take their readers for a bunch of idiots to boot). The Tribune editors conclude with the unbelievably sweeping statement that the region’s populations are “fed up with failed leftist policies.”[22]

No Alternative?

This last statement neatly sums up the central message that these articles wish to communicate: that any policies that don’t fit the Anglo-American model of unfettered neoliberal capitalism “don’t work” and that though people might at first naively support them, they end up getting disillusioned and begrudgingly come to the realization that neoliberalism is the only viable economic system after all. Though they might not spell it out quite so obligingly, the message is essentially a repetition of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that “there is no alternative” to free markets, free trade, and capitalist globalization. The presentation of the recent setbacks of Latin American left governments as confirmation of this seems to be a deliberate jibe directed at the many people the world over who hold up Latin America as humanity’s beacon of hope for providing a more just, generous, and sustainable way of life.

But though these setbacks of the Pink Tide should not be reflexively explained away and the diminishment in popular support for its parties should not be discounted, there are important distinctions and qualifiers that cast doubt on such a rash declaration of victory for neoliberal orthodoxy. Lest we forget, it was less than a decade ago that an economic crash plunged world economies into disarray and prompted no less a figure than Alan Greenspan to admit that free market ideology is flawed.[23]

First, it is important to make the distinction between a decline in support for the Pink Tide’s parties and support for their policies. Research has suggested that voting publics in Latin America have not become any less supportive of such policies, but rather are becoming disaffected with how they are being administered by those in charge. A poll by Poliarquía in the run up to the 2015 Argentine presidential election, for instance, found that 50 percent of respondents were in favor not of a return to the policies of the pre-Kirchner years, but rather “continuity with change.”[24] As Raanan Rein, a professor of Latin American and Spanish history at Tel Aviv University, put it: “The left lost more than the right won.”[25] He added: “It wasn’t that Macri became so popular, it was simply that his predecessors, the Kirchners, destroyed Peronism.”[26] In other words, what is needed is not a relapse back to tooth and nail neoliberalism, but rather a new and more effective leadership to build on the alternatives that were first attempted by the leftist old guard. The many achievements that resulted from these policies include: expanded access to public services such as healthcare[27] and education;[28] radically reduced poverty[29] and child malnutrition;[30] widespread construction of new homes for those in need;[31] and a significant pushback against the brutal realities of income and wealth inequality[32] that have long plagued the region. Many of these policies’ merits have been recognized by international organizations including the United Nations,[33] the Carter Center,[34] and even the World Bank.[35] Perhaps the most revolutionary of all the changes implemented by the Pink Tide governments were the drafting of new constitutions that guarantee social, political and economic rights to all citizens,[36] and also include unprecedented protections for marginalized groups such as women[37] and indigenous people,[38] and even for nature.[39]

To be sure, legitimate feelings of betrayal exist throughout the region and it is important to hold progressive governments accountable for their share of errors in confronting the economic downturn or failing to prepare for a rainy day. But though many voters might express their anger at the governing Pink Tide parties for their mistakes and lack of foresight by abstaining or even casting a protest vote for the right-wing opposition, this does not indicate a wholehearted endorsement of these parties’ proposals, far less a desire for a return to neoliberalism and the structural adjustment era of the 1980s and 1990s.

Of course, there is also the natural and universal tendency in all societies for people to gradually tire of their governments (regardless of success or failure), to take for granted the gains that were made, and to forget the bad aspects of what came before. All governments, like all human enterprises generally, are deeply imperfect and are not, in Latin America least of all, immune from risks of corruption and other malign influences. But these negative factors are hardly unique to governments of the left. After all, plenty of governments of the right throughout the region have been not just corrupt, but in some cases even murderous. From the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in which thousands of people were “disappeared”[40] to the torture and extrajudicial executions that took place during Venezuela’s Andres Perez administration,[41] such governments hardly compare favorably to those of the Pink Tide.

Secondly, it is important to make a distinction between left-leaning governments and the social movements and popular sectors that thrust them into power. The continued energy of these movements demonstrates that their drive to resist neoliberalism and fight for social change is as fierce as ever. Indeed, one of the most basic mistakes of these shallow op-ed columns is their failure to consider, let alone grasp, the workings of the internal dynamics of these movements and their relationships with their national governments. If anything, the fall in support for Chavismo in Venezuela among some of its traditional base has more to do with the failure of the Maduro government to maintain its engagement with the popular sectors rather than a newfound enthusiasm on their part for a return to neoliberalism and a repeat of so-called structural adjustment.

Thirdly, it is important to remember that the parties that have opposed the Pink Tide governments have been pressed to the left and have, at least publicly, adopted much of the language and ideas of their political adversaries. During the 2012 and 2013 presidential elections in Venezuela, for instance, opposition candidate Henrique Caprilles Radonski presented himself as a social democrat and the standard-bearer of the moderate left ideas of Brazilian President Luiz Ignácio da Silva[42] (who incidentally endorsed the Chavistacandidate[43] in both cases[44]). His campaign also used some of the enduring symbols of Chavismo, calling itself the “Bolivarian Command” and promising to not discontinue the social missions, but rather make them more efficient and less ideological. Though leaked documents subsequently revealed his plan was to make a swift about-face after the election and impose a brutal neoliberal agenda once in office,[45] Caprilles at least understood that the immense popularity of then-President Chavez’s policies meant that he had to publicly present himself as a center-left progressive in order to stand a chance of winning. The Venezuelan opposition has also moved to the left on social issues and even fielded three LGBT candidates in the 2015 December legislative elections.[46] Likewise, Mauricio Macri presented himself during the presidential campaign in Argentina as a pragmatist and moderate technocrat rather than a free market absolutist.[47] As was the case with Caprilles, there is good reason to think such pronouncements were insincere (he has already rekindled Argentina’s relationship with Wall Street[48] and filled his cabinet with bankers[49]), but it at least demonstrates that the political center of gravity amongst Latin American publics is way to the left of the traditional forces of the right.

Fourth, we should not forget that circumstantial factors have created problems for left-leaning governments that are not of their own making. Global drops in commodity prices have made life difficult for all leaders in a region that has long been heavily based on extractivism. Whether it be oil in Venezuela, copper and zinc in Bolivia, or soybeans in Argentina, global downturns have caused problems for these governments which would have been just as pronounced had their right-wing rivals been in power instead. Dependence on exports of raw materials long predates the Pink Tide and moving out of this legacy would have been a challenge for any government.

Fifth, there is a tendency to characterize the policies of Pink Tide governments as “unsustainable.” The unsustainability argument appeals to basic intuition but is based on a false analogy—that a country’s financial situation is akin to a household budget. One could just as easily point out that with the resource wealth and technological sophistication of today’s world, there is clearly the means to provide for every person on planet earth many times over. That we are not doing so is not a failure of the left, but rather of capitalism and explicable largely in terms of the lasting legacy of colonialism and its lingering power structures. These pressures bear particularly heavily on Latin America given its long history of colonial oppression, not to mention its proximity to the major force in the world that has worked to maintain this status quo and long treated the region as its “backyard.”

Finally, therefore, it is important to consider the superpower’s lasting impact on the region. Meddling by the region’s hegemon and its internal allies has consistently caused damage to Pink Tide governments and their efforts at social reform. The United States’ aggressive stance against them is understandable given the threat they pose to its hemispheric dominance and the preeminence of its favored international organizations. Pink Tide governments have established new international bodies to realize the vision of the decades-long struggle for regional integration and provide a buffer against U.S. imperialism. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) are attempts to transcend Washington’s “free” trade orthodoxies and forge an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS). The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was founded to mediate regional conflicts and could in the future provide a framework for military cooperation or freedom of movement for citizens of member nations. The monetary fund BancoSur, though still in its nascent stages, is hoped to provide an alternative source of lending free from the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. Taken together, these organizations have provided a hope that international relations can in the future be based more on international cooperation, rather than competition, and mutual, rather than solely national, interests. This phenomenon is essentially the expression in the international realm of what Roger Harris of the Taskforce on the Americas has described as “the threat of a good example.”[50]

Though it does not completely explain away the failures on the part of progressive governments, there has nonetheless been a clear pattern in terms of the treatment they have received from United States: the more successful Pink Tide governments have become at helping their citizenry and providing an alternative to Anglo-American neoliberalism, the greater the incentive has grown to crush this threat. When the sabotage is successful it provides a double benefit for the United States and its internal allies: in addition to making a different path unviable it also makes these policies appear as intrinsically unworkable, and thereby “proving” that the neoliberal status quo is the only way forward.

Clearly this ghost of Thatcher haunts the minds of mainstream media commentators, explaining both their lazy treatment of the facts and dogmatic commitment to making all news events fit the neoliberal agenda. What is truly important, therefore, is not so much the immediate electoral fortunes of the Pink Tide governments, but rather the efforts to defend the spirit of the movements on which they are based and the intellectual legacy of their principles. A heavy burden lies on those of us who strive to counter the new neoliberal offensive and the mendacity of its propaganda foot soldiers.

[1] Jackson Diehl, “Is Hugo Chavez a real threat to the U.S.?,” The Washington Post, September 27, 2010.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/26/AR2010092603334.html

[2] Jackson Diehl, “Jackson Diehl: Will the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be gutted?,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2013. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-will-the-inter-american-commission-on-human-rights-be-gutted/2013/03/03/c018f9a6-81d0-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html

[3] Jackson Diehl, “Stop ignoring the implosion in Venezuela,” The Post and Courier, May 4, 2016.http://www.postandcourier.com/20160504/160509752/stop-ignoring-the-implosion-in-venezuela

[4] Ibid.

[5] Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert, “Election Will End Kirchner’s Presidency, Not Her Hold on Argentina,” The New York Times, October 24, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/world/americas/election-will-end-kirchners-presidency-not-her-hold-on-argentina.html

[6] http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11815

[7] Ibid.

[8] Rafael Ruiz Velasco, “The Jury Is In: Latin America’s 21st Century Socialism Has Failed,” The PanAm Post, May 19, 2016.https://panampost.com/rafael-ruiz-velasco/2016/05/19/21st-century-socialism-has-failed/

[9] Ibid.

[10] Marina Koren, “Brazil’s Impeachment Battle,” The Atlantic, April 17, 2016.http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/brazil-impeachment-dilma-rousseff/478632/

[11] Matt Sandy, “Brazil’s Senate Votes to Impeach President Dilma Rousseff: What Happens Now?,” Time magazine, May 12, 2016.http://time.com/4327408/brazil-senate-dilma-rousseff-suspended/

[12] “Brazil President Corruption Scandal,” Open Source Investigations.http://www.opensourceinvestigations.com/corruption/petrobras-scandal-catching-up-to-brazil-president/

[13] Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016.https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead

[14] Antonio Sampaio, “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2016.http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/13/how-brazils-left-destroyed-itself-dilma-rousseff-impeachment/

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016.http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html

[18] Ibid.

[19] Jonathan Watts and Uki Goñi, “Argentina shifts to the right after Mauricio Macri wins presidential runoff,” The Guardian, November 23, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/argentina-election-exit-polls-buenos-aires-mauricio-macri

[20] “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016.http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html

[21] Rachael Boothroyd, “US Republican Senator Meets with Venezuelan Opposition in Caracas,” Venezuela Analysis, July 1, 2015.http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11432

[22] “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016.http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html -america-20160516-story.html

[23] Brian Naylor, “Greenspan Admits Free Market Ideology Flawed,” NPR.org, October 24, 2008.http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96070766

[24] Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016.https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2014/06/24/argentina-reduces-risk-and-improves-health

[28] Mark Weisbrot, “Why Ecuador Loves Rafael Correa,” The Guardian, February 15, 2013.http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/rafael-correa-ecuador-elections

[29] http://cepr.net/documents/publications/weisbrot_revista_fall_2008.pdf

[30] James Suggett, “Venezuela Reduces Malnutrition in Children to 4%,” Venezuela Analysis, July 7, 2008.http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/3626

[31] “Venezuelan Social Housing Project Delivers 700,000th Home,” TeleSur, April 19, 2015.http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuelan-Social-Housing-Project-Delivers-700000th-Home-20150419-0019.html

[32] “Venezuela, Uruguay Register Lowest Inequality in Latin America,” TeleSur, April 29, 2015.http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuela-Uruguay-Register-Lowest-Inequality-in-Latin-America-20150429-0006.html

[33] Antony Boadle, “Brazil’s Rousseff says extreme poverty almost eradicated,” Reuters, February 13, 2013.http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-poverty-idUSBRE91I14F20130219

[34] http://www.cartercenter.org/countries/ecuador-health.html

[35] http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2014/06/24/argentina-reduces-risk-and-improves-health;http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/venezuela/overview

[36] Sarah Wagner, “Women and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution,” Venezuela Analysis, January 15, 2005.http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/877

[37] Michael Fox, “Women and Chavismo: An Interview with Yanahir Reyes,” NACLA. https://nacla.org/article/women-and-chavismo-interview-yanahir-reyes

[38] http://acdivoca.org/our-programs/success-story/new-bolivian-constitution-guarantees-more-rights-indigenous-people

[39] http://therightsofnature.org/ecuador-rights/

[40] “Chile recognises 9,800 more victims of Pinochet’s rule,” BBC News, August 18, 2011. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-14584095

[41] https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/Venez93O.pdf p. 8

[42] “Profile: Henrique Capriles,” BBC News, October 3, 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-16811723

[43] http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/nacionales/lula-da-silva-respalda-reeleccion-presidente-hugo-chavez/

[44] Tamara Pearson, “Ex Brazilian President Lula Supports Venezuela’s Maduro,” Venezuela Analysis, April 3, 2013.http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/8476

[45] Jody McIntyre, “Who is Henrique Capriles Radonski?,” New Internationalist.https://newint.org/blog/2012/09/25/venezuela-elections-capriles-chavez/

[46] Corina Pons, “Venezuela’s first transgender candidate to run for Congress,” Reuters, August 8, 2015.http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-venezuela-politics-idUKKCN0QC25P20150808

[47] Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016.https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead

[48] Benedict Mander, “Argentina rekindles its relationship with Wall Street,” The Financial Times, May 12, 2016.http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/6aeb9ae2-17aa-11e6-b8d5-4c1fcdbe169f.html

[49] Astrid Prange, “Macri to take Argentina in a new, neoliberal direction,” Deutsche Welle, December 6, 2015. http://www.dw.com/en/macri-to-take-argentina-in-a-new-neoliberal-direction/a-18898041

[50] Roger Harris, “Venezuela: Supporting A Once and Future Revolution,” Counterpunch, June 26, 2013.http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/26/venezuela-supporting-a-once-and-future-revolution/

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