Saturday, June 11, 2005

Cocopah Tribe Says No To "Yuma Patriots" Vigilante Group

On Wednesday night the Yuma Patriots, another of those right wing vigilante outfits formed to “safeguard” our borders from God Knows What, were turned around by the the Cocopah Tribal Police (CTP) as they were trying to begin their patrols.

A blockade of vehicles stopped the “patriots” in their tracks and ordered them off reservation land. The "patriots" were told by CTP officers that "they had already entered Cocopah Indian Reservation and they should turn around." The tribe had warned the Patriots that they would not be welcome on tribal land earlier. A statement from the Cocopah Tribal Council released Tuesday said "it is not in the best interest of our community to allow this on our lands."

The statement from the tribe said the Patriots should not return. "We, as a sovereign nation, have asked that they not enter our lands, as law-abiding people, we expect that they will not return, that they will respect our laws and lands. We are obligated to protect the safety of our community, and the integrity of the laws of Cocopah," the statement said.

A lawyer for the Patriots group hinted that the Indians were up to something illegal in the area. "I think they have something to hide," said attorney John Minore. "As a criminal attorney, I know the hot spots for criminal activity, and there is a lot of drug smuggling and alien smuggling that occurs through the reservation." Then, in somewhat of a contradiction, he added he didn’t think the tribe itself was involved in any criminal actions.

But Patriot’s founder Flash Sharrar (I kid you not) says his group plans to head back again today. He says his group has some hunting and fishing licenses that allow them on the reservation. I guess they are hunting and fishing for “illegals.”

William Michael Smith general counsel for the Cocopah tribe, told the Yuma Sun, "Those were purchased under a false pretense. It's not hunting season, and there's no water to fish in. The pretense was they were purchased for people from out of town, and they implied it was for the future."

In fact Sharrar is quoted in the Washington Times as giving this reason for his groups operations and I suppose those hunting licenses, "It is about this country being overrun. ... It is our civic duty as citizens of Yuma to stop this crisis.”

Old Flash, who owns a transmission repair shop in Yuma, started the group after his son said he was assaulted by banditos along the border on Easter.Sources: Yuma Sun, Washington Times, Arizona Republic, Indianz, KYMA TV (New Mexico), Pechanga

For further information on this go to One People’s Project

Friday, June 10, 2005

Bolivia in Turmoil

As regular readers of the Oread Daily know, on Friday the OD reprints an article from some other source. Today's article comes from Democracy Now

New Bolivian President Sworn in After Weeks of Mass Rebellion

Friday, June 10th, 2005

The head of Bolivia's Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, was sworn in as president after a day marked by massive protest and widespread fears of a bloodbath or a civil war. The situation in the country remains tense but many believe that the worst-case scenario has been avoided. Earlier this week, President Carlos Mesa resigned amid massive protest against his government, giving the right-wing head of the Bolivian Senate, Hormando Vaca Diez an opportunity to take power as his constitutional successor. But Vaca Diez declined the post after protesters blockaded parliament to prevent his appointment. We go to Cochabamba to speak with Bolivia analyst, Jim Shultz and we speak with Bolivian researcher and activist, Marcela Olivera as well as Tom Hayden.

The indigenous-led rebellion in Latin America's poorest country, Bolivia, has taken yet another dramatic turn. After a tense day and rumors of coup plots and possible civil war, the country has a new president. The Bolivian Congress named Supreme Court chief Eduardo Rodriguez to replace Carlos Mesa, who resigned earlier this week amid massive protests. Rodriguez is president of the Supreme Court with a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University. After being sworn in, he called for general elections. While he did not set a date for the polls, the constitution stipulates that new elections must be held within six months. Congress endorsed Rodriguez after accepting the resignation of Carlos Mesa. Hours earlier, the President of the Bolivian Senate - Hormando Vaca Diez - announced that he would not seek to assume the Presidency.

Hormando Vaca Diez:
"For the unity of our country, so the clashes end, so that Bolivia can recover its normality and so that the experience we've lived through in our country may never be repeated, I resign the succession as mandated by Article 93 of the State Political Constitution."

Vaca Diez made the announcement after protesters blockaded parliament to prevent his appointment. Rodriguez assumed the presidency after the head of the lower house of Congress also declined the post. The country's airports were also shut down after air traffic controllers started a strike to oppose Vaca Diez.

Congress met in Sucre, instead of its headquarters in La Paz, to try to avoid massive indigenous-led protests but the demonstrators followed them. Security forces had tried to seal off Sucre from demonstrators but they got through and battled police in the downtown area.

Protesters took over three oil fields belonging to British Petroleum and four belonging to Spain's Repsol. They have also taken over a pipeline station on the border with Chile. At the request of the government, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan dispatched a senior official to the country to act as an observer.

The mainly peaceful protests turned violent when Coro Mayta, a miner union leader, was shot dead by a soldier near Sucre. This is opposition leader Evo Morales

Evo Morales:
"What's happened in Bolivia is unfortunate. Because of Hormando Vaca Diez, President of Congress, we've lost the life of a comrade like Carlos Coro. It's unfortunate because, despite everything, the attitude of Mister Hormando Vaca Diez doesn't change."

Immediately after Rodriguez assumed power, Morales urged him to promise to nationalize the oil and gas industry and to convene a constitutional assembly.

• Marcela Olivera, Bolivian researcher and activist who works at the Democracy Center in Cochabamba. She was a member of the Coalition in Defense of Water and Life that organized a popular uprising against the privatization of the Cochabamba water system by Bechtel and the World Bank. Last year she worked with Public Citizen in Washington to develop an Interamerican water activist network.

• Jim Shultz, Executive Director of the Democracy Center in Cochabama, Bolivia. He writes a blog on the situation in Bolivia that can be found at

• Tom Hayden, former California State Senator. He traveled to Bolivia last year, interviewed Evo Morales and wrote an article for the Nation magazine titled Bolivia's Indian Revolt.

AMY GOODMAN: Hours earlier, the President of the Bolivian Senate, Hormando Vaca Diez, announced he would not seek to assume the presidency.

HORMANDO VACA DIEZ: For the unity of our country, so that the clashes end, so that Bolivia can recover its normality and so that the experience we have lived through in our country may never be repeated, I resign the succession as mandated by Article 93 of the State Political Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Vaca Diez made the announcement after protesters blockaded parliament to prevent his appointment. Rodriguez assumed the presidency after the head of the Lower House of Congress also declined the post. The country's airports were shut down after air traffic controllers started a strike to oppose Vaca Diez. Congress met in Sucre, instead of its headquarters in La Paz, to try to avoid massive indigenous-led protest, but the demonstrators followed them. Security forces had tried to seal off Sucre from demonstrators, but they got through and battled police in the downtown area. Protesters took over three oilfields belonging to British Petroleum and four belonging to Spain's Repsol. They have also taken over a pipeline station on the border with Chile. At the request of the government U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan dispatched a senior official to Bolivia to act as an observer. The mainly peaceful protest turned violent when Coro Mayta, a miner union leader, was shot dead by a soldier near Sucre. This is opposition leader, Evo Morales.

EVO MORALES: What's happened in Bolivia is unfortunate. Because of Hormando Vaca Diez, President of Congress, we have lost the life of a comrade, like Carlos Coro. It's unfortunate, because despite everything, the attitude of Mr. Hormando Vaca Diez doesn’t change.

AMY GOODMAN: Immediately after Rodriguez assumed power, Morales urged him to promise to nationalize the oil and gas industry and to convene a constitutional assembly. At the request of the government, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan dispatched a senior official to Bolivia. We are joined now in our studio in Phoenix by Marcela Olivera. She is a Bolivian researcher and activist who works at the Democracy Center in Cochabamba, a member of the Coalition in Defense of Water and Life that organized a popular uprising against the privatization of the Cochabamba water system by Bechtel and the World Bank. Last year, she worked with Public Citizen in Washington to develop an inter-American water activist network. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Marcela.

MARCELA OLIVERA: Thank you very much, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. Can you talk about the latest developments of the last 24 hours?

MARCELA OLIVERA: Well, as you mentioned before, there is a new president right now in Bolivia, and -- but the main problems there are not solved. The demands of the people since the beginning were the nationalization of the gas, the natural resources, and a new kind of government that could allow the people participate. And we are thinking that we could do this through an assembly constituent -- constituent assembly. And those are the main demands of the people. Until those two things could be possible, I don't think it's going to be a solution for the problems that we have right now there.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, can you talk about this succession from Mesa, to the head of the Bolivian Senate, who looked like he was going to take power, Vaca Diez, and then ultimately did not, and then ultimately, who this head of the Bolivian Supreme Court is?

MARCELA OLIVERA: Well, Hormando Vaca Diez -- the constitution says that the next person to be a president should be Hormando Vaca Diez, that is, the head of the Senate, and that if he will resign, the next person will be the head of the deputies. Both person resigned, because both are linked to this old oligarchy of politicians that are still in power, and those guys that cause all of the problems that we have right now in Bolivia, those traditional political parties, who Bolivian people don't believe them anymore, you know, who cause all of the disasters that we are living right now. So, that's why people demanded the resignation of these two guys, and a guy who apparently is not linked to any political party could assume the presidency and could lead to a solution in our country. Hormando Vaca Diez is also a guy who comes from the richest part of our country, that is Santa Cruz, and which the last months are been asking for an autonomous government that could allow them to be exploiting more our natural resources in favor of the transnationals. That's why people mainly said we don't want these guys. Because they belong to these political parties that sold our country to the transnationals, but at the same time I don't think once more I have to say this, that those were not the main demands of the people.

AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined on the line from Cochabamba, Bolivia, by Jim Shultz, Executive Director of the Democracy Center, who writes a blog on Bolivia that can be found at Jim Shultz, you were out in the streets yesterday in Cochabamba. Can you talk about what was happening there?

JIM SHULTZ: First, Amy, let me just thank you for having Marcela and I on and to say that we have dealt with journalists all over the world the last few weeks, and Democracy Now! has analyzed the story better and more consistently than anybody. I just want to say that. And thank you.

Yesterday was an unbelievably tense day in the country and Cochabamba, as well. I mean, last night, people were preparing for where they were going to sleep away from their homes in fear of a coup. Vaca Diez had directly threatened, in comments to the BBC and elsewhere, military action as soon as he took office. So, we had no idea what was going to happen yesterday. And the people were amazing. There were 3,000 to 4,000 people in the plaza here in Cochabamba yesterday in a giant march and rally to demand that Vaca Diez not assume the presidency, to demand the nationalization of the country's gas and oil, and to demand this constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. The police tear-gassed all of us who were in that plaza. And there's also a group here, including the mayor and others who have gone on a hunger strike to press those same demands.

This was a very tense day in Cochabamba and around the country. I mean, imagine the spectacle of the Congress having to move to another city because the capital was shut down, only to find miners coming in. And at one point, the Congress decided not to meet and tried to leave, and the miners shut down the airport in Sucre. The people here are speaking in an extraordinarily loud voice in the streets.

And as Marcela pointed out, this is not over because the demands that sent people into the streets beginning three weeks ago was never just “We want a new president.” The demand has consistently been “We want the country to (b) nationalize the gas and oil, and we want this constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.” And so, while the country, I think, is less tense this morning because we have been relieved of the possibility of this potential dictator, essentially, coming in and taking over, these two demands are still the demands from the street, and I don't think you are going to see a let up in the pressure until we see some sort of commitment by the government, some sort of an agreement that those two issues are going to be resolved in one way or another.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Jim Shultz in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where there was also mass protests yesterday. Marcela Olivera joins us in a studio in Phoenix. She lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia. We’re going to break, and when we come back, in addition to our two guests in Arizona and Bolivia, we'll be joined by former California State Senator, Tom Hayden, who has spent a good deal amount of time in Bolivia and has looked at the team from the U.S. of, well, you might say Clinton campaign meisters who went down to Bolivia a while ago, that saw the beginning of this succession of Bolivian presidents.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with our discussion, the latest dramatic developments in Bolivia, the head of the Supreme Court has now just been sworn in as President, with indigenous protesters and mass rebellion around the country, protesting the man who would have constitutionally succeeded President Mesa, and he was the head of the Senate, Vaca Diez. And we are talking about how this has happened and where the struggle goes from here. Our guests, Marcela Olivera, in a studio in Phoenix with the Democracy Center in Cochabamba. In Cochabamba, Jim Shultz is with us with that Center, and in our studio in New York, we are joined by Tom Hayden, former California State Senator, traveled to Bolivia last year, interviewed Evo Morales who was the head of the Coca Growers, now a socialist congress member, wrote an article for The Nation magazine entitled “Bolivia’s Indian Revolt”. We welcome you, as well, Tom Hayden. I think some people might be surprised that we're having you in to talk about Bolivia, but why do you think Bolivia is so important right now?

TOM HAYDEN: Well, I think progressives really need to pay attention to Bolivia. It’s kind of an epicenter of several struggles. One, it's the only place in Latin America or the world where the left is led by Indian leadership, people like Evo Morales and others. Two, it was the poster child for the Clinton project, so-called neoliberalism, stripping the social benefits out of the economy to make it a place for investment, particularly British Petroleum, Sempra, Enron was in there, and it's a disaster area. It's now 70% poverty, as Jim Shultz and the other good people there can tell you, and Evo Morales, in the spectrum of Bolivian politics, is described by many of the experts I have talked to as a moderate pragmatist. He is not just a leader in the streets. He actually favors a kind of new deal nationalization of the oil industry, the kind of thing that happened to Mexico in the 1930s. There are other far more radical people who want to go from a country that has an Indian majority to a country that is reconfigured as an Indian republic. There are people on the other side who want a coup. It may be that none of these happens, no coup, no radical reform, no Indian republic, and it just is patched together, in which case it would be really tragic. You have a weakened state with the Santa Cruz people, as your friend from Phoenix indicated, being kind of a white, rich, oil-producing sector seeking autonomy, secession, and the Indian majority, thwarted by the rules of the game in terms of coming to power electorally -- although, we’ll see, it's possible -- and this constant turmoil in the streets that threatens the state but never quite transforms it. This oil and gas issue may bring it all together and may create a revolutionary situation, but it may just continue as it has for several years to be constant siege by the Indians against the state with no fundamental change.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read to you a press release from GQR, Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research, Inc. It says, “GQR, with James Carville, Shrum-Devine-Donilon and GCS-UK helps elect Bolivian president Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada.” It says, “The former Bolivian president, Gonzales Sanchez de la Sada, pulled off a remarkable electoral comeback by finishing first in Bolivia's presidential elections on June 30.” Of course, this was a few years ago.


AMY GOODMAN: “Sanchez de Lozada, who served as president from 1993 to 1997, trailed by more than ten points in the eleven candidate field with less than one month to go in the campaign, according to public opinion polls. Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research served as Sanchez de Lozada’s consultant on polling and strategy, helped develop Sanchez de Lozada’s winning campaign message, which stressed solving Bolivia's economic crisis by creating public works and jobs.” And then it goes to talk about the victory. It says, “GQR worked for Sanchez de Lozada, or ‘Goni’ as he is called, as part of the GCS consortium of campaign consultants. GCS includes political strategist James Carville from the media firm Shrum-Devine-Donilon,” and it goes on from there. Can you talk about – I mean, we are talking about the Clinton campaign team. What were they doing in Bolivia?

TOM HAYDEN: Well, you explained it precisely. The Clinton campaign team branched out, so to speak. They were with the more corporate candidates in Argentina, in Mexico, as well, but in Bolivia, they took particular credit for the election of this fellow, who is known infamously as “Goni,” who was part of that white elite, and he was run out of the country in 2003, after his forces had killed at least 100 people in the streets. I heard about it. I was sitting at Harvard's Institute of Politics, and his friends called up from Miami, and asked if he could, you know, get an appointment there, and somebody did a quick check and said, “Well, he just killed 100 people this month. Let's put that off.” And I don't know what happened with it, but the story is true that the Clinton group not only represented Goni and were proud of it -- I talked to Stan Greenberg last year, and he said he still has a lot of respect for him -- but also that same campaign firm represents British Petroleum.


TOM HAYDEN: They say only on environmental issues, but I mean –

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Shultz in Cochabamba, Goni, as he is called, the former Bolivian President Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada supported Vaca Diez taking over. So he's very relevant to today's politics, very much a part of that oligarchy. Can you talk about the significance of this, Jim Shultz?

JIM SHULTZ: Let me comment briefly, and I'd like to have Marcela actually comment on that to give it a real Bolivian perspective. But Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada was the architect of all of these privatizations in partnership with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He was sort of their local instrument, and now that those policies are in such disrepute and are really very much the center of the uprisings here, I think that his name is poison. You know, when people think of Goni these days, they think of how they are going to put this guy on trial for all the people who died under his presidency, but beyond that, I think it would be good to have Marcela's perspective.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcela, if you could comment on that, I also wanted to go back in time and have you describe what actually happened in Cochabamba, a few years ago when you took on Bechtel. But start off with the support of a sort of democratic core, democratic elite in this country, supporting the election of a man who was not popular at the time, Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada, although he won and remains a key figure in Bolivian politics.

MARCELA OLIVERA: Well, Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada is a very symbolic person for us, because he represents all the policies that were coming to my country from the World Bank and the IMF. You know, he's the guy who sold for us all our companies, all of the state companies, who sold the natural resources, who killed people in the streets without any feeling about that. So, this guy represents for us the model that has been imposed in Bolivia and other Latin American countries. I think when people kicked him out from our country, we were feeling that we were kicking out all of these policies, too. But at the same time, you know, even thinking that this guy is a symbolic guy for us, I don't think that the angriness of the people are focused on just one person. I think it's all of the political parties in our country that were doing -- it doesn't matter who is in power, you know, who political power is running the country, you know. The policies that come from them are exactly the same. The names change, but the policies are exactly the same. So, it's all of these political parties that belong to this old oligarchy in Bolivia. It's all of the angriness of the people are against them. It's not just one person or one political party in singular. It's all of them, and I think that was perfectly reflected on the streets these weeks in Bolivia.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcela, you and your brother, Oscar Olivera, are both very well known for your activism against privatization of the Cochabamba water supply by the San Francisco based company Bechtel and the World Bank. Can you talk about that struggle as a seminal moment and what happened, the number of people who died, how you took on the major financial institutions and corporations?

MARCELA OLIVERA: Well, Amy, what happened there, it was -- you know, the medias of here in the United States but also in Bolivia tend to create those leaders, you know, those who like Evo Morales or Oscar at some point -- and they think that people just follow these guys. I don't think it's like that. You know, I think it's -- we saw a little bit in April 2000 in Bolivia when people went to the streets, it was a self call. It was a self organization, it wasn't one leader calling to the people to join. It was just people organizing themselves. And that's something that I think that we can not understand if we are not in the middle of the struggle. So, what happened in Bolivia in April 2000 was that. It was just the people getting angry and some spokespersons talking for the people. And what's going on these days, you know, after April 2000, it's -- in all of these years, you know, it happened the same the past year, and it's going on right now. It's the same, exactly the same. It's not Evo Morales that is organizing this thing. It's not Oscar Olivera in April 2000. It's just people that can't live anymore with the same policies and are going to the streets because they didn't have anything else to lose.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2000 –

MARCELA OLIVERA: So it is very, very important to understand this point.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2000, the Bolivian police, military, opened fire, right? How many people did they kill, as you fought against privatization?

MARCELA OLIVERA: It was just -- it was a young kid, a 17-year-old kid called Victor Hugo Daza, who died in Cochabamba, but there were at least four people more that died in other parts of the country. But related to the water issue in that time, it was this kid in Cochabamba.

AMY GOODMAN: And now, this Harvard-trained Supreme Court Justice who is President, you have got this number of issues. One is privatization or nationalization of oil and gas; the other, the issue of indigenous rights. But they are together, but also separate. Why?

MARCELA OLIVERA: I don't think what we were watching all of these years, you know, and that's again, goes to April 2000 with the water issues, that we realize that we can't give a solution to the problems. That those problems that we have, you know, like the water problem, we couldn't give a complete solution to that problem in Bolivia. And then it was the coca issue and then it was the health and education privatization, and now it's the gas issue again. What we see is that we cannot put, like, sticks on that, you know. We have to resolve this big problem here. It's not giving small solutions to the water, to gas. It's not like that, like we are going to resolve the problem. It's in the structural solution that we have to find. And I think what people are focusing right now is in these constituent assembly. I think it’s that where we are going to find a solution for all of the issues that right now are calling our attention, you know, like the water, like gas, like natural resources. I think it's in this rewriting a new constitution and building a new kind of a country where we are going to find solutions to our these problems.

AMY GOODMAN: Jim Shultz in Cochabamba, my colleague, Mario Murillo of Pacifica station WBAI this morning was quoting the Amnesty International report that talked about the war on terror, now the Amnesty report talking about it as a source of human rights abuses, used as a way to justify human rights abuses and the idea that it is spreading to Latin America and will be used to criminalize indigenous movements, as they challenge the status quo to equate “indigenous” with “terrorist.” Are you seeing that happening?

JIM SHULTZ: Well, you know, the United States and its allies here have a long track record of trying to figure out some way to label what happens here as anything other than what it is. I remember in 2000 during the water war, we had the President's spokesperson saying to the foreign press and everybody buying it, ‘obviously this was being led by narco traffickers.’ So that was supposedly really a terrorist uprising, as opposed to people just being ticked off that Bechtel raised their water rates.

This week, the chief American diplomat, or U.S. diplomat, for Latin America, Roger Noriega, tried to say that what was going on in Bolivia was really just infiltration by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. You know, the United States, in particular, is obviously not really very happy about the fact that the Bolivian people are uprising and challenging the policies that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have imposed on this country. And they're going to try to paint this as anything other than what it is. And when listeners and others start hearing that somehow this is terrorist activity, it's just baloney. It’s just baloney.

Now, if the United States wants to force Bolivia to a point where people start blowing up oil refineries and pipelines, because they have gotten to that point of desperation, the United States certainly has the capability of doing that. I think the United States’ military option in Bolivia, which means Hormando Vaca Diez, and it failed last night because the people basically shut down the Congress because that was being attempted. So, this is absolutely a risk. The United States is trying to paint the progressive movement in Bolivia as a terrorist movement, as a narco traffic movement. It wasn't true in 2000. It's not true now, but it is absolutely something that people need to be watchful about.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom Hayden, last word.

TOM HAYDEN: The head of the U.S. Southern Command testified before Congress along those very lines that Jim has indicated that it could become a narco state. So, they are trying to paint it. Everything is on the line here. You have an Indian-led revolutionary movement that is unprecedented. You have Evo Morales, the head of the Coca Growers' Union. The United States has eradicated, I think, 40,000 hectares of cocoa, down to about 5,000 acres now. There's no program to really support all of those indigenous people. You have the collapse of the negotiations over gas and oil. You have these big multinational corporations on the run. You have the failure, the naked failure of what were originally the Clinton policies -- originally the Bush policies, then the Clinton policies, then the Bush policies which are still going on. The Congress is still debating whether these policies should be applied to Central America. The CAFTA vote is still coming up. You have the F.T.A.A., the expansion to all of Latin America at stake here. So much is at stake in Bolivia. It could be just a caretaker government, a band-aid temporarily. This new guy is thought of as another Mesa, kind of a moderate compared to the Vaca Diez, that could have been a coup last night. But where is the leadership on these issues? Where's the leadership from the Democratic and Republican Parties? We got them into this mess with our fine abstractions about free trade, and before that, 600 years of suppressing Indians. So, when are we going to start making things right?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on that note, and having raised the issue of CAFTA, we're going to turn now to a debate on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Tom Hayden, I want to thank you for being with us. Jim Shultz in Cochabamba and, as well, Marcela Olivera, speaking to us from Phoenix, based though in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a debate on CAFTA.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Genocide Trial Underway

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has begun the trial of André Rwamakuba, Minister of Primary and Secondary Education in the Interim Government during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. He was also a member of the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain (MDR). Rwamakuba refused to attend the proceedings but the presiding judge ordered the trial to continue despite his absence.

"Andre Rwamakuba planned, instigated, ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted attacks against the Tutsi population in his home commune of Gikomero," his indictment says.

ICTR Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow said the Prosecution would present evidence that the accused conspired with other government officials in developing a plan to remain in power by exterminating the civilian Tutsi population and members of the Hutu opposition. In executing the plan, Rwamakuba allegedly organized, ordered and participated in the massacres of the Tutsi population and of moderate Hutu.

It is alleged that in April and May of 1994 Rwamakuba, a physician, ordered selected Tutsi patients away from the National University Hospital in Butare. Prosecutor Dior Fall told judges, according to Arusha, that Rwamakuba walked into the hosptal, selected Tutsi patients for death and dragged them out so they could be taken to be killed by members of the extremist Hutu Interahamwe militia. Those patients were never seen again.

Rwamakuba is further accused, South Africa’s IOL says, of “removing intravenous drips from Tutsi patients in the hospital's intensive care unit."

It is also alleged that Rwamakuba led massacres at the hospital itself. The former doctor allegedly walked around the hospital with an axe hanging from his belt, striking any ethnic Tutsis he found in wards or corridors. These activities earned him the nickname, “Minister of Axe.”

Rwamukuba was first arrested in 1997 and released six months later before being re-arrested in 1998. Sources: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, IOL (South Africa), Reuters Alert Net. Coalition for International Justice, Arusha (Tanzania)

New Zealand, USA, Same Struggle, Same Fight

A campaign to increase safety for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and teachers in schools will be launched at a national conference in Wellington, New Zealand, June 11 and 12, 2005.

The campaign, known as Safety in Schools for Queers (SSQ4), is being organized by numerous groups including The New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Rainbow Youth, the Human Rights Commission, the Post Primary Teachers’ Association, Out There and the Family Planning Association.

SS4Q spokesperson Sarah Helm told New Zealand's Scoop a recent study found that 34 per cent of non-heterosexual students did not feel safe in school most of the time. “This is one of the biggest human rights issues facing the queer community – young people’s right to go to school and be treated with respect and dignity,” she said.

That study of 10,000 secondary students further reported that 13% were being “bullied” at least once a week. Some young people had been physically abused and spat on.

The conference will cover issues with the curriculum, policies and teacher training, as well as establishing diversity groups in schools.

“Diversity groups or gay/straight alliances have been tremendously successful in increasing queer students feelings of belonging in a school,” Helm said.

One speaker at the conference will be Australian gay activist Rodney Croome. He will speak on the positive changes which have been made in recent years within the Tasmanian state education department.

“Tasmania has an anti-homophobia and anti-trans-phobia policy, and all of their staff and students are going through anti-homophobia training. It might sound surprising, but New Zealand is a long way behind Tasmania on this issue,” Helm says.

Of course, mistreatment of gay and lesbian youth in schools is also a problem in the United States.

A jury in San Diego yesterday awared two gay students $300,000 in damages for harassment they suffered at their school. The jury said that Poway District High School, north of San Diego, failed to provide a safe environment for LGBT students.

365 Gay News reports that during the trial Joseph Ramelli and Megan Donovan detailed a litany of events including physical abuse at the hands of other students. They were verbally threatened and Ramelli was spit on, punched, kicked and his car was vandalized. Ramelli told the San Diego Superior Court jury that the taunts started during his freshman year and increased in the upper grades. "It makes you feel insecure," Ramelli told the court. "It breaks you down…You start seeing that it isn't just words. It starts meaning more and more to you, especially as you start figuring out who you are." The two students testified that the situation at the school became so intolerable they opted for home-schooling in their senior year.

Donovan also testified she had been mistreated and denied a position on the girls’ varsity softball team because she is a lesbian.

School officials took "minimal or no action at all" when the incidents were reported, plaintiffs Attorney Bridget J. Wilson said. When Donovan and Ramelli complained, they were accused of exaggerating and fabricating events, Wilson told the jury.

Wilson said that the only steps the school did take were counter productive. “All of their solutions involved removing the gay kid, getting the gay kid, having someone follow him around, having him pass through classes late, having someone accompany him here or there – it does nothing to change the climate on the campus,” Wilson told the Gay & Lesbian Times. She agrees that changing peoples individual opinions would be difficult, However, she said, “You could do some systematic work with the campus on making sure that it’s absolutely clear that hate behavior is not tolerated that focuses on respectful behavior."

The lawsuit stated that Poway administrators had encouraged both students to leave the school to participate in home study programs. As a result, Wilson contends Donavan and Ramelli were deprived of a standard high school experience. “That’s the problem … we believe gay and lesbian kids are entitled to have a real high school experience, not one where they’re increasingly isolated from their fellow students in lieu of being protected … Ultimately both of these kids, and I don’t think these kids are different than other kids who’ve experienced harassment, ended up in home-schooling, which I think pretty clearly limits their options,” said Wilson.

"They (Ramelli and Donovan) are thrilled with the verdict," Paula Rosenstein, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the North County Times Wednesday afternoon. "They feel heard, which is important." Rosenstein said that her clients did not want to sue the district, but they, their parents and their attorneys received no response when took their complaints to the district. “All along all they wanted was the harassment to stop so they could go to high school, so they could get an education," Rosenstein said. Sources: San Diego Union Tribune, Gay & Lesbian Times, 365 Gay News, Scoop (New Zealand), Rainbow Youth, Stuff (New Zealand), North County Times (Escondido, CA), NBC7/39 (San Diego)

Students, Community Fight Cornell Parking Plan

Student and community activists who have stalled a controversial Cornell University parking lot construction plan for more than a year met yesterday with University officials. They told officials what they could expect if construction begins as scheduled next week.

Patrick Young, a member of the Redbud Woods Working Group told the Ithaca Journal, "We started off by saying that the tactics that we are using are tactics that have never been defeated when the police are using legal means.”

Opponents say the parking lot would do little to solve parking problems on campus while stripping the area of valuable and historic green space. The Student Assembly has passed several resolutions in opposition to the parking lot and nearly 300 faculty members to date have signed an online petition started by Redbud Woods Working Group.

Opponents also argue that the woods should be protected because Cornell's public commitment to sustainability and the historical value of the land. The working group further takes issue with Cornell's relationship with the community and the lack of a democratic process in the matter.

Young said that opponents were pushing for a moratorium on the project so that all sides could discuss the matter and work toward a mutually agreeable resolution.

In a written statement, University President Jeffrey Lehman, however, seemed to rule out a moratorium. The proposal is far from new, has been subject to many community outreach meetings and has "changed significantly over time" he wrote.

On Monday, chainsaw crews felled the first handful of trees, but work on the proposed parking lot was quickly stalled by protesters who locked themselves to trees in the small forested area known as Redbud Woods to prevent further clearing. Newsday reports, “One protester climbed 25 feet into the branches of a tree, while others took shifts camping on a platform installed in another tree. Other protesters locked themselves to reinforced concrete blocks buried in the ground nearby. Dozens of supporters milled around the woods or watched from a distance.” No further clearing has taken place since Monday.

Students and community members have worked together to oppose the project from the beginning. They say there are better alternatives to Cornell’s perceived parking problem, including underground parking or a parking garage.

The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission denied Cornell a certificate of appropriateness to build a parking lot, citing that the project would irrevocably destroy the historical integrity of the site. The City of Ithaca took Cornell to court over the matter but lost.

Last April, students sat-in at Lehman’s office. That protest ended with numerous arrests. Some students were denied their diplomas until disciplinary hearings proceed at the University. One of those students who was not allowed to graduate, Danny Pearlstein told the Ithaca Times, "We sat in because we love Cornell and we don't want it to make an anti-democratic and unsustainable mistake. President Lehman refused all of our efforts to negotiate. His administration used excessive physical force against peaceful, nonviolent, passive Cornell students. We are being prosecuted on campus and in the community…This only strengthens us, our love for Redbud Woods and our desire to make Cornell more accountable to all of its citizens. We will only work harder to achieve our goals." Sources: Environmental Newsletter (Cornell University), WSTM-TV (NY), Ithaca Journal, Newsday, Ithaca Times

How Come Nothing Much About Iraq

Some readers may wonder why there are so few articles in the Oread Daily about Iraq, or the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, or other high profile issues. The reason is I figure these stories are covered at length in the mainstream, alternative and left media and there is little reason for me to join in. So mostly I try to cover not so well "outed" stories. When I do cover something like Iraq, I try to find a unique angle. Anyway, that is my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Kibbutz Residents Blame Army For Cancer

Israelis living in Kibbutz Na’an and other communities in the Rehovot area are more than unhappy with an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) antenna complex located nearby. And they are taking some action.

This morning they blocked the entrance to the communications base. In addition studies in the kibbutz elementary school have been halted and will not resume, according to Haaretz, until, “…the Defense Ministry orders the removal of the antennae from the base.”

Why is this going on?

Residents fear that radiation coming from the antennae is the cause of many cases of cancer in the surrounding region which have popped up in recent years.

Kibbutz Na'an, near Rehovot, is home to some 1,000 people. Toward the end of last year, area residents began to suspect that the reason for the high incidence of cancer there was the antenna installation. They approached the Defense Ministry with questions about the level of electromagnetic radiation emitted by the antennas, and were told the site posed no danger to them. The residents, however, were not satisfied, and called in experts to check radiation levels emitted from the site.

Professor Eliyahu Richter from the Hebrew University was one of those called in to investigate the situation. His findings only further disturbed residents from the area. His report on the radiation emitted by the Defense Ministry antennas next to Kibbutz Na'an reveals they are the source of very high and dangerous levels of radio frequency-microwave radiation (50 times higher than the accepted standard). According to Israel Insider the report recommends taking immediate steps to reduce the amount of radiation from the antennas, since based on "the greater risk of cancer."

The Defense Ministry says it is investigating the complaints. Sources: My Rehovot, Haaretz, Israel Insider, Arutz Sheva

FBI Wants To Know About You

Two days ago I reported on my experiences with the COINTELPRO program and Mark Felt. After all the information on black bag jobs, illegal surveillance, and the like was made public by various congressional committees and media outlets in the 1970s, an outraged public forced the government to back off.

Of course, few of us believe that such actions actually came to an end, but the “bad publicity” at least forced the government to tone done its actions.

After 9/11 all of that changed. Suddenly, especially with the Patriot Act, such criminal government activity became legal again.

This brings us to the news that yesterday the U.S. Senate intelligence Committee backed a White House proposal of broad new powers for the FBI for its “fight against terrorism.” As reported in Capital Hill Blue, “After hours of secret deliberations, the oversight panel voted 11-4 to send to the full Senate a proposal that would give the FBI the power to subpoena without judicial approval a wide range of personal documents ranging from health and library records to tax statements.”

The same bill also will make permanent sections of the Patriot Act that were to expire at the end of the year exposing the lie that the Act was a temporary answer to an emergency situation.

The Intelligence Committee action had, according to Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, broad bipartisan support.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others promptly condemned the action. Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy, said, "Today’s secret vote was a failure for the Fourth Amendment, the American people, and the very freedoms we hold dear. At a time when Americans from all walks of life are calling for the Patriot Act to be brought in line with the Constitution, the Senate Intelligence Committee went ahead with an unwarranted expansion of the Patriot Act’s already intrusive powers."

"In a move antithetical to our Constitution, the new ‘administrative subpoena’ authority would let the FBI write and approve its own search orders for intelligence investigations, without prior judicial approval. Flying in the face of the Fourth Amendment, this power would let agents seize personal records from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other businesses without any specific facts connecting those records to any criminal activity or a foreign agent. The panel rejected attempts to limit this extraordinary power to emergencies - creating the likelihood that it will be used in fishing expeditions and in investigations unrelated to terrorism."

"Americans have a reasonable expectation that their federal government will not gather records about their health, their wealth and the transactions of their daily life without probable cause of a crime and without a court order. We hope that Congress will protect America by giving law enforcement the tools they need without sidestepping our Constitution’s fundamental checks and balances."

An interesting example of what kind of things happen when an out of control government gives itself more and more power can be found in eastern Missouri where the ACLU is demanding records of activities carried out under the Patriot Act which will document political intimidation of Missouri residents. Times, an eastern Missouri media outlet reports, “The ACLU is seeking documents under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) that detail activities of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Among state residents unjustifiably targeted, according to the ACLU, is Ben Garrett, a 1998 Webster Groves High School graduate who had been attending Truman State University in Kirksville.”

Relatives and friends of Garrett last year found FBI agents at their doors asking about their political activism and plans to attend demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Garrett and two others were later forced to appear before a Federal Grand Jury in St. Louis on the very day they had planned to protest at the Republican Convention.

Garrett told Times, "We were questioned by the FBI in July 2004 in Kirksville, and then they tailed us all over when we went to St. Louis."

"They sat in their cars outside my friends' houses. The neighbors called the local police on them, and the police were shown their FBI credentials when they showed up," said Garrett. "The agents followed us to a meeting we had with the ACLU in St. Louis and they even followed us when we went to a movie.”

Brenda Jones, executive director of the ACLU-EM said, "Civil liberties are being violated and it is happening here in Missouri. We believe that the FBI is working with local law enforcement agencies through so-called Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) to spy on individuals and groups engaged in entirely lawful, constitutionally protected activity."

"We want to know more about the workings of JTTFs and why resources allotted to fight terrorism are being diverted to watch and intimidate people and groups who have nothing to do with terrorism," Jones said.

The conduct of the FBI is "eerily reminiscent of the days of J. Edgar Hoover,” said Denise Lieberman, legal director for the ACLU affiliate in St. Louis. "They are conducting investigations based on groups' political activities and affiliations, or their religious affiliations," she said. "Under our Constitution, government is supposed to have cause to believe that you are involved in criminal activity before they put you under investigation."

Among those who filed the FOIA request according to St. Louis Today are longtime peace activist Bill Ramsey, peace activist and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and American Muslim magazine editor Sheila Musaji. Organizations include the St. Louis Instead of War Coalition, which opposed the Iraq War, the Alliance for Democracy, which advocates for workers' rights and environmental issues, and the Council on American- Islamic Relations.

Skyler Harmann, Garrett's mother, said, "It's too bad that our Patriot Act gives authorities license to harass people with political views that differ with the administration.”

The ACLU’s Lieberman adds, "A lot of people are going to say: 'If you don't have anything to hide, why should you care if the FBI comes to ask a few questions?' But the point is: This is a country where you are not supposed to receive a knock on the door because of your political beliefs."

By the way besides Garrett’s plans to demonstrate at the Republican Convention what is he doing that threatens the government so very much.

Well, Garrett’s threatening behavior includes his acting as an outside source of support to political prisoners by doing such nefarious things as helping them buy stamps, writing letters to prison officials and contacting organizations on their behalf.

Garrett told the Truman State University Index, "My goal is to foster a real sense of community that isn't dependent on institutional authority. The network is not so important as the goal of a strong community of people that care about the world and each other." Sources: St. Louis Today, Truman State University Index, Capital Hill Blue, Times (St. Louis, MO), ACLU


This from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Join us for Patriot Days of Action!

Participate in a National Week of Action: July 2-8, 2005


As Congress considers reauthorizing or amending portions of the USA PATRIOT Act that sunset on December 31, 2005, it is time for a national call to action to defend the Bill of Rights and restore our lost liberties.

In periods of fear and hysteria, all too often our precious liberties have been violated in the name of defending them. From the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Palmer Raids to the internment of Japanese Americans, time and again in the face of real or imagined threats, foreign and domestic, the government has denied the civil liberties of citizen and non-citizens alike.

Today, our civil liberties are again at risk and we must take action to defend them. A broad coalition of grassroots groups has begun planning a National Week of Action to demand that the government strictly comply with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and that Congress and the people of the United States provide strict oversight over all anti-terrorism legislation.

We hope you will join us the week of July 2-8 to organize locally as part of a coordinated national series of events. Now, more than ever, we must use the power of our collective voice to restore our lost liberties.

What is the week of action?

During the days surrounding July 4, 2005, we call upon everyone who is dedicated to protecting civil liberties to join with other members of their community to reinvigorate the national debate by taking local action. By holding or participating in events in your community, you can voice your concerns to your legislators, the public, and the press. Events can focus on education/entertainment, civic and multicultural activities, and lobbying.


July 2-8, 2005: July Fourth weekend (July 2-4) is a good time to reclaim the spirit of Independence Day and celebrate America's founding principles of liberty and justice in your community. During the weekdays following July 4, while members of Congress are in their districts, we are asking participants to hold in-district meetings with their legislators to reinforce their concerns.

What are the main issues?

Concerns about threats to civil liberties are not limited to the USA PATRIOT Act but encompass a host of laws and policies that have provoked fears and that have harmed innocent people and families since September 11, 2001. Participants can focus on the threats that concern their community and connect them to local civil liberties abuses. Our broader message will be unified by a demand to uphold the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and to restore liberty and justice. We will post talking points, fliers, and other resources soon.

How can I participate?

To encourage maximum participation and impact, we suggest events that are meaningful, but not difficult to organize. Representatives of several communities have helped us compile a menu of event suggestions. We will post information on participating organizations, locations, and event schedules, as well as sample literature, press releases, and other helpful resources soon.

Please start planning by inviting organizations and individuals in your community to help put on one or more local events. Include your legislators in your plans - invite them to participate in a planned event, or make an appointment for a delegation to meet in their district office(s). Remember that the movement to defend civil liberties and basic American values is nonpartisan. Your work to build or reinvigorate a nonpartisan coalition to participate in the Patriot Days of Action will pay off in your community, in the press, in your legislators' offices, and ultimately in Washington, DC.

Help us promote your planned activities!

Submit information about your plans to us so we can list your event(s) on our web site and include your community in press materials. Fill out our online form. The more locations and events involved, the greater the attention from Congress, the press, and the public.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Athens Today: Sludge, Tourism, Anarchists and Whatever

Here is a story I bet you won’t read in too many other places today.

Athens garbage collectors have been put on 24 hours shifts in an attempt to clean the streets of the city of 35,000 tons of rubbish which have piled up during a weeklong closure of the city’s only landfill over a sewage disposal dispute.

Shortly thereafter local and regional officials agreed to stop their closure of the Ano Liosia dump, which according to Kathimerini, “was launched last Tuesday in protest at the local disposal of partially processed sludge from the capital's main sewage-treatment plant.” However, those same officials insisted they would still not allow sludge from a plant at Psyttaleia on an islet off Piraeus to be dumped there.

The landfill at Ano Liossia -- the only legal landfill in Attica -- has been closed since last Tuesday, by order of Ano Liossia mayor Nikos Papadimas, backed by the mayors of the other western Attica cities, in protest over a decision announced recently by environment, town planning and public works minister George Souflias for the transfer of sludge from the sewage-water plant on the island of Psytallia to the Ano Liossia landfill for treatment. Souflias has campaigned hard to persuade protesters that a new way of disposing of the sludge - which until now was dumped raw - will solve the problems of the unbearable stench and occasional leakage. But lots of nearby residents ain’t buying it.

Kathimerini reports that the treatment plant already has a serious problem of overflow because more than 150,000 tons of partially treated sludge has accumulated there as a result of earlier disputes.“

Meanwhile, Western Piraeus residents, who complain of an unbearable stench from from the site, and who say “leaks” are not uncommon are planning further protests over the accumulated sludge.

The government acknowledges the complaints but says they have no choice but to dump sludge there until a new plant opens in 2006 at Psyttaleia. Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said yesterday, “I understand and respect the anxiety and the problems of the people of western Attica. But unfortunately, the massive mistake of providing for only one landfill in Attica has already been committed, and there is no other way out.” Deputy Environment Minister Themistocles Xanthopoulos adds, "We hope that in two years, all the sludge will become odorless grains that will not pollute the Attic basin.”

According to the Athens News Agency the Department of Tourism has been most critical about the garbage pile up in Athens. Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said the whole mess was damaging the image of Athens and was a risk to public health. He said this was an "unacceptable picture", and severely criticized the fact that Greece was last (in Europe) in waste management systems.

That same sewage plant was ordered recently by an administrative court to discontinue its current practice of dumping sludge in large trenches close to the sea because of the danger of maritime pollution.

You say you don’t much care about this situation.

You would if you lived nearby I bet.

Anyway, the Oread Daily cares…

And, you know what? Had I not looked into this article I would never have discovered that just yesterday another of Athens’s costly surveillance cameras which had been set up as part of last year’s Olympics security plan was destroyed by a roving group of zany anarchists. They set fire to the damn thing just one day after six other ones were destroyed in the same way.

According to Athens police, five hooded youths broke open the camera in Nea Smyrni and set it on fire at 3 a.m. yesterday.

Nearly three hundred such cameras had been installed for the Olympics. Many are still in use although Kathimerini reports last November the country’s privacy watchdog, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority, placed severe restrictions on their use and ruled that they could only be used for monitoring traffic.

Oh yeah, just for the hell of it all 15 youths on motorcycles also smashed the windows of Emporiki and Egnatia banks on Athinas Street in central Athens and threw Molotov cocktails inside, causing substantial damage.

And the beat goes on…Sources: Antara News, Kathimerini, Athens News Agency

Alleged Torturers Found "Not Guilty"

I can’t seem to get off that story about those Bulgarian nurses.

A court in Tripoli today acquitted ten Libyans (nine security officers and a doctor) accused of torturing the nurses into making false confessions. “The court has decided that all the defendants are not guilty and were acquitted of the charges against them,” said the court’s presiding judge Abdullah Aoun.

The Sofia News Agency reports one of those acquitted as saying, "We have repeatedly said that we are innocent and today's ruling proves the truth. There is no violence in Libya. The West wants to politicize the case but we left it in the hands of the jurisdiction."

Bulgaria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gergana Gruncharova said the ruling was “not satisfactory.”

The lawsuit was initiated against the ten Libyan defendants on 25 January 2005, after nearly three years of investigation into the statements of the Bulgarian medics they had been tortured into confessions under a parallel case.

The World Peace Herald reports that the defendants shouted "long live Libyan justice" when the judge pronounced the acquittal. Sources: Aljazzera, Sofia News Agency, Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates), World Peace Herald

"They Might As Well Give Them a Vacation to Hawaii" - Cops Get Good Deal In Beating Case

After an April hung jury in the case of two Palo Alto police officers accused in a brutal attack, prosecutors are now expected to announce a plea deal today that will leave many people very unhappy.

The prosecution, according to the San Jose Mercury News, is going to allow Michael Kan and Craig Lee to plead no contest to disturbing the peace by fighting in a public place. The maximum penalty this carries is a fine of $250. The plea will allow both men to remain on the police force. Craig Brown, Lee's lawyer, called the infraction ``somewhat less serious than a carpool violation.''

''I am happy for the officers,'' said Palo Alto Councilman Bern Beecham said Monday. ''For the city, this whole episode has clarified issues we need to address.''

The two cops had been charged with felony assault for the beating of 59-year-old Albert Hopkins in July 2003. Both officers are Asian American. The four jurors who held out for acquittal in the April mistrial all were Asian-American, while the other jurors (one African American, six whites and one person of unknown ethnicity) thought the cops were guilty as charged.

The Mercury News quotes Joe Hopkins, Albert Hopkins' brother and lawyer, as complaining, “They might as well give them a vacation to Hawaii.''

''It is disturbing, if it's true,'' Rick Callender, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP said in the Monterey County Herald. ''I hoped that they would get their fair day in court rather than get a 'parking ticket' for attacking an African-American man minding his own business.''

During the trial Hopkins had testified that the two rookie officers had pulled him from his parked car clubbed and pepper sprayed him. While the officers said that Hopkins was suspicious because he was parked near a bike shop that had recently been the site of a break in and acted in an uncooperative manner, Hopkins maintained he was attacked because he was black.

During his closing arguments assistant district attorney Peter Waite described the attack as worse than that upon Rodney White. He said Hopkins was minding his own business when he was assaulted by the officers and added, "This man Hopkins, whether you like him or not, was no criminal. He didn't drive drunk. He didn't flee the police. He didn't ever fight with them." "This case is far worse (then Rodney King) -- to pick out an innocent man, a 59-year-old man in his socks, to choose him for this outrageous treatment...These two thugs (Kan and Lee) beat the snot out of him with deadly weapons, with batons.” Waite said the cops embellished their reports to cover up their crimes. Sources: Monterey County Herald, San Jose Mercury News. BrownWatch News, San Francisco Bay View, CBS 5 (San Francisco Bay Area)

LATIN AMERICA:'War on Terror' Has Indigenous People in Its Sights

The following article comes from the Inter Press Service News Agency

'War on Terror' Has Indigenous People in Its Sights
Gustavo González*

The ”war on terror”, identified in Amnesty International's annual report as a new source of human rights abuses, is threatening to expand to Latin America, targeting indigenous movements that are demanding autonomy and protesting free-market policies and ”neo-liberal” globalisation.

SANTIAGO, Jun 6 (IPS) - The ”war on terror”, identified in Amnesty International's annual report as a new source of human rights abuses, is threatening to expand to Latin America, targeting indigenous movements that are demanding autonomy and protesting free-market policies and ”neo-liberal” globalisation.

In the United States ”there is a perception of indigenous activists as destabilising elements and terrorists,” and their demands and activism have begun to be cast in a criminal light, lawyer José Aylwin, with the Institute of Indigenous Studies at the University of the Border in Temuco (670 km south of the Chilean capital), told IPS.

Pedro Cayuqueo, director of the Mapuche newspaper Azkintuwe, also from the city of Temuco, wrote that the growing indigenous activism in Latin America and Islamic radicalism are both depicted as threats to the security and hegemony of the United States in the ”Global Trends 2020 - Mapping the Global Future” study by the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC).

NIC works with 13 government agencies, including the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), and is advised by experts from the United States and other countries. Cayuqueo described the report as ”a veritable x-ray” of potential ”counterinsurgency scenarios” from now to the year 2020.

In the process of drafting the report, NIC organised 12 regional conferences around the world, one of which was held in Santiago in June 2004.

The reporter said the emergence of increasingly organised indigenous movements and the strengthening of their ethnic identities become, in that view, targets of ”the so-called low-intensity warfare doctrine, a renovated version of the National Security Doctrine” that formed the basis of U.S. interventionism in Latin America from the 1960s to the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

The indigenous question would thus appear to form part of what the United States sees as future threats to its hegemony.

In Latin America, the Andean subregion is seen as the ”hottest” area, because of the growing political role played by well-organised indigenous movements in Bolivia and Ecuador, but also because of the impact on indigenous peoples of armed conflict and drug trafficking in Colombia.

Farther south in the Andes mountains, Mapuche organisations in southern Chile and Argentina have become more and more radical in recent years in their claims to their ancestral territory, demands for autonomy and the creation of indigenous reserves, and defence of the environment, which is threatened by transnational mining and forestry corporations that are granted tax breaks and other incentives by governments.

”The indigenous nations exercise and preserve a profound democratic essence in their organisational and decision-making structures, but transnational corporations foment their exclusion from society and push indigenous people to violence, which could translate into armed struggle,” Aymara leader Juan de la Cruz Vilca told IPS in Bolivia.

In Bolivia, 70 percent of the population of 9.2 million identify themselves as indigenous, and the indigenous movement, along with other sectors, is demanding a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and ”re-found the republic” to grant self-determination to the country's 36 native groups, added de la Cruz Vilca.

The activist, the former president of Bolivia's Confederación Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, a peasant farmer union, accused foreign oil companies of backing the demands for regional autonomy put forth by business and large landowners in the wealthy eastern regions of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando and Beni, where the country's natural gas reserves are concentrated.

”Behind that movement lies a hidden plan aimed at generating a violent reaction by the indigenous movements, in order to justify external military intervention,” he maintained.

”It's true that indigenous peoples are a threat, from the point of view of the political and economic powers-that-be. They see us as terrorists, but we aren't, because our struggle is open, legal and legitimate,” said Ricardo Díaz, an indigenous lawmaker with the leftist Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), the strongest opposition party in Bolivia.

In Ecuador, indigenous people account for an estimated 40 percent of the population of nearly 13 million.

For the first seven months of the government of Lucio Gutiérrez, who was removed from his post by Congress on Apr. 20 after a week of protests, the Pachakutik Movement, the political arm of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), formed part of the administration.

CONAIE president Luis Macas told IPS that if his movement, ”which guides the indigenous struggle along peaceful channels, didn't exist, the poverty in which our communities, and the Ecuadorian people in general, are steeped could become a breeding-ground for the emergence of organisations that could try to change the social situation through violence, but that hasn't happened,” said Macas.

”We are not a threat to the world, or to the United States. On the contrary, we hold out a hope, an alternative for humanity,” said Feliciano Valencia, coordinator of human rights in the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, in the southwestern Colombian province of Cauca.

The shamans (traditional healers) ”had warned that very difficult times lay ahead, with a black cloud hanging over our territories,” the Nasa indigenous leader commented to IPS, saying the Colombian government was already following policies aimed at the persecution of social and indigenous movements even before the ”Global Trends 2020” report was issued.

The Nasa people number around 150,000, making them the second-largest indigenous group in Colombia, which is home to 90 aboriginal communities that make up around two percent of the population of 44 million.

Although Colombia's 1991 constitution granted autonomy to indigenous peoples in their reserves, that provision is not respected, and there are continuous occupations of land by the military and irregular armed groups, said Valencia.

He also protested the spraying of coca and poppy crops and the displacement of indigenous peoples from their land by those interested in getting their hands on natural resources.

Chilean Deputy Minister of Planning Jaime Andrade Huenchucoy, the government agent in charge of indigenous affairs, told IPS that the native peoples in his country represent no threat of destabilisation or terrorism, as described in the NIC report.

José Santos Millao, one of the Mapuche members of Chile's National Corporation of Indigenous Development, remarked to IPS that the U.S. intelligence services ”suspiciously or stupidly” cast the protests of indigenous peoples as part of ”terrorist” tendencies, in order to distort their ”legitimate demands.”

In Chile, 6.4 percent of the population of 15.2 million identify themselves as indigenous members of six ethnic groups, although other estimates put the proportion at 10 percent.

In neighbouring Argentina, meanwhile, native peoples make up between 1.5 and 2.0 million people, out of a population of 37 million.

In both Chile and Argentina, the Mapuches comprise the biggest indigenous group.

The land conflicts that are currently raging began with the arrival of the foreign mining, oil, forestry and water companies, Mauro Millán, leader of the Mapuche Tehuelche Organisation of Argentina, told IPS. ”The United States is trying to depict the reaction of the Mapuche people in defence of their land as an internal security problem facing our countries,” he said.

In an interview with IPS, Rafael González, spokesman for the Committee of Campesino Unity in Guatemala, said that ”since the Sept. 11 (2001) terror attacks (on New York and Washington), anyone who criticises the establishment is dubbed a terrorist” by the U.S. government.

In the view of anthropologist Pedro Ciciliano at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the NIC report is ”exaggerated and fraught with errors typical of U.S. intelligence based on biased information.”

”Indigenous people can be considered a threat, because they are poor and are pressing for their rights, but they don't represent a terrorist threat,” the anthropologist told IPS.

In Brazil, where 400,000 indigenous people represent 0.2 percent of the population, it is absurd to say their demands and protests have a destabilising effect, said Jairo da Silva, deputy coordinator of the indigenous council of the northern state of Roraima, and Paulo Maldós, a political adviser to the Missionary Indigenist Council, which has ties to the Catholic Church.

Maldós commented to IPS that Latin America's indigenous people are in the midst of an ”ethnic reconstruction,” which explains why the declining workers' movement has been increasingly eclipsed by associations of rural workers and peasant farmers.

He cited the case of Bolivia, where miners, previously linked by a powerful, well-organised labour union, have been overshadowed by coca farmers.

With respect to ethnic diversity, ”the real destabilising factor is the narrow-minded attitude of some states, like the Chilean state, which refuse to recognise the country's multi-ethnic nature and to design mechanisms that permit it to be expressed,” said lawyer Aylwin.

”A state that recognises that multi-ethnic nature and establishes political and territorial rights for indigenous people to allow them to develop within their own cultures has much fewer problems in terms of stability than states which deny that reality,” he argued.

* With additional reporting by Marcela Valente (Argentina), Franz Chávez (Bolivia), Mario Osava (Brazil), Constanza Vieira (Colombia), Kintto Lucas (Ecuador) and Diego Cevallos (Mexico). (END)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Mark Felt Was In My Bedroom, Too

In the early 1970s I found myself on trial with three others charged with conspiracy. The government at the time alleged that we were connected to the Weather Underground Organization. Of course, the government alleged lots of things that weren’t true and lots of things that were irrelevant, but you know how it is.

What was true was that each of us was politically active and that was enough. Enough so that I ended up spending some time as a guest of the federal government in a couple of swell “correctional institutions.”

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned much about my past in the Oread Daily because I’m not all that interested in what Bruce Springsteen refers to as "Boring stories of glory days."

I mention it now for a reason…as you will see.

On several occasions between my indictment, my trial, and my sentencing I came home to my apartment and found that it had been ransacked. The “odd” thing was that the only things that ever disappeared were legal files, political writings, phone numbers and the like. Once myself and the woman I was living with arrived at the apartment and someone was inside. The chain latch on the door was set and we couldn’t get in. By the time I ran down three flights of stairs and to the back of the building whoever was there was gone. They left behind a disassembled phone.

My lawyer filed several motions demanding the government turn over any records pertaining to break-ins and the like. We got lots of blacked out pages and lots of promises by lots of federal and state police agencies that they were not engaged in such activities. Our judge was not interested in proceeding any further into the matter.

Well, I bring this up now because of the recent outing of Mark Felt as “Deep Throat.” Before I go on let me say that I am glad that Felt did what he did in regards to providing information to the Washington Post on the Watergate burglary and cover up. That was a good thing for which he is to be commended.


Mark Felt should also be remembered as a big cog in the government’s COINTELPRO campaign against political activists of all stripes back when. COINTELPRO had as very specific targets the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement, Young Lords, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the Weather Underground Organization.

In April 1978, Felt was indicted along with former FBI chief L. Patrick Gray and former FBI counterintelligence chief Edward Miller on federal charges of conspiring to violate the civil rights of citizens. They were accused of ordering agents in to burglarize and illegally wiretap the homes of friends and relatives of the Weather Underground in 1972 and 1973. The so-called "black bag jobs" occurred after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that the executive branch was not authorized to conduct warrantless surveillance on domestic dissidents.

Felt was convicted of the crime, but was soon pardoned by President Reagan.

Again, among the many illegal activites associated with COINTELPRO were burglaries like those at my apartment, wire tapping and the distribution of false information.

The Final Report of the Congressional "Church" Committee which investigated illegal government spying stated:

"Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that...the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence."

In yesterday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune, Bernardine Dohrn former Weather leader and now director and founder of the Children and Family Justice Center at the Northwestern University School of Law said about the revelations of Felt as “Deep Throat,” "My reaction was to laugh heartily. That's one of the great things about getting old, you get to discover these ironies: That the bad guy is simultaneously a good guy.”

Felt never denied the break-ins but argues they were done in the name of national security.

Bernardine’s sister Jennifer, herself a target of COINTELPRO, said in an interview with Amy Goodman, “My response was that history needed to be reviewed, re-looked at, re-examined, and this was a great time to look at the comparisons between what happened in the early 1970s to me and many others and what in fact is happening now around Iraq and the building of a counterintelligence system.”

On the same show Juan Gonzalez, Co-host and former member of the Young Lords, explains, “It became clear, I guess in the early 1980s, the extent of this -- of the illegal break-ins and illegal activities. Wesley Swearingen, a former F.B.I. agent, actually testified that he had conducted – he was basically a full-time burglar for many years.”

Gonzalez has memories very much like my own. He says, “Well, you know, I can testify, having been a member of the Young Lords back in those days that the numerous break-ins that occurred in the homes of Young Lord members, including my own, back in 1972, clearly were political break-ins and that people -- that the things that were stolen had nothing to do with valuable goods of a drug dealer, but were clearly break-ins looking for material and information…”

Jennifer Dohrn ends the interview with words that I think should be heard, “…this story of Mark Felt coming out now should be for people in this country to really look at the challenge to our civil rights, what's happening with this immoral war in Iraq, and ask for accountability. That's what needs to be done. So, that's the legacy of Mark Felt, the legacy should be to look at his responsibility for acts that authorized repression, murder, imprisonment of people for life, Herman Bell, David Gilbert, Leonard Peltier and took away civil rights from people who were dissenting. This is supposed to be democracy now.”

Anyway, I never suspected until now that I had a connection of my own with “Deep Throat.” Sources: Chicago Tribune, Public Eye, Freeze Frame, Synthesis/Regeneration, Democracy Now

Carol's Books

As many of you know my good friend Carol Loretz died earlier this year from ovarian cancer. Carol was a lifelong activist and amassed quite a library of progressive books. Books on labor, African American history, Marxism, women, political theory, and more fill eight full book cases. Carol left these books to me. It appears that I have found a good home for them. Somewhere where they can be used in a manner that Carol would have liked and by people Carol would have liked to have known. Solidarity Revolutionary Center and Radical Library, 1119 Massachusetts St., Lawrence KS 66044 will soon become the new home for Carol's books. Since I first met Carol doing political work in Lawrence, it is even more fitting that her books become available there to new generations of folks carrying on the good fight.

Turtles Face the End

At this time the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is considering a proposal by several countries to halt industrial high-seas longline fishing. The miles-long gear used in such fishing threatens a wide variety of sea life ranging from sharks to sea turtles to albatross.

Todd Steiner, biologist and director of Turtle Island Restoration Network, writes “Among the greatest of the threats to our future is the decline of our planet’s greatest resource, the oceans." He says that 70% of marine fish species are on the brink of extinction due to over fishing. “A primary threat to those ocean resources comes from industrial longline fishing, an industry that sets over 5 million baited hooks every day (almost 2–10 billion annually), creating a curtain of death. These lines catch anything that bites or is unfortunate enough to get hooked while swimming in their path,” writes Steiner.

In Longline fishing a 60 mile line with 2000 branch lines, each up to 1,200 feet long is deployed. The target species of longlining are primarily top-of-the-food-web predatory fish, such as swordfish and tuna. But those aren’t the only species that get caught up obviously.

For example, the Leatherback Turtle, the largest living reptile on Earth is also a victim. Steiner says, “As longlining has increased, the number of Pacific leatherback females that have safely returned from the oceans to their nesting sites has dropped dramatically.”

And he means dramatically. At Mexiquillo, Mexico where in the 80s almost 5,000 females returned to nest each year, the number is now four. The situation is the same throughout the Pacific.

According to researchers at the 24th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Conservation and Biology, in Costa Rica the Pacific Leatherback has ten years before extinction if nothing is done to reverse these problems. That’s all it will take to wipe out a species that has been around for more than 100 million years. Sources: Biology Daily, Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Florida Sportsman

Annnouncement: World Ocean Day

6/8 WED, 11 am & 7:30 pm - World Ocean Day events: urge the UN to
protect sea turtles. Organizations from all over the world are asking the UN
to implement a moratorium on industrial longline fishing in the Pacific to protect endangered sea turtles, albatross, sharks, marine mammals & fish from being
injured, killed & driven to extinction. Help raise awareness & deliver the 1,000s of petitions signed by citizens, scientists & organizations. Assemble at 11 am outside the main entrance to UN on R Wallenberg Walk, 1st Ave btw E 44th & E 45th St on the east/UN side, in front of the flags; make sea turtles out of black
umbrellas & posterboard to join large wall of the many amazing drawings & posters that have been sent to the UN from all over the world. 7:30 pm: screening: "Last Journey for the Leatherback?" at SoHo Patagonia store, 101 Wooster St.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Not Asking for Big Bucks for God's Sake

Janitors in San Diego County want health benefits and they are ready to fight for them.

About 1400 janitors who work in the county but outside of downtown San Diego voted yesterday to strike over lack of benefits. The strike could begin as early as Monday.

The janitors work primarily in large buildings in La Jolla, Torrey Pines, Sorrento Mesa, Mission Valley and Carlsbad. They work in facilities operated by companies such as GenProbe, Amylin, Pfizer, Invitrogen and Elan Pharmaceuticals. Among the landlords or property managers of the buildings are Arden Realty, the Irvine Co., H.G. Fenton, Trammell Crow and CB Richard Ellis.

Under their expired labor contract, these suburban janitors earn $7.60 an hour, which is 85 cents less per hour than downtown janitors, who also have paid health care.

As reported in the San Diego Union Tribune the suburban janitors whose net income averages out to a little over $1,000 per month have no health benefits presently for themselves or their families.

Service Employees International Union Local 1877 (SEIU 1877) local director Mike Wilzoch said, "We're not talking about big money here…” He added, "San Diego is one of the richest real estate markets in the United States." He stressed that companies that service the large defense, industrial, biotec, and pharmaceutical companies that inhabit the county can afford to pay up on benefits."

The union has proposed a three-year contract that would boost hourly salaries by 90 cents per hour. It is also asking for company-paid health care, a 10th annual holiday to bring the suburban janitors in line with downtown janitors and three weeks of vacation after eight years on the job, rather than the 10 years now required.

RisMedia quotes Mike Garcia, president of SEIU 1877, "The negotiations are taking us backward. When that happens, people are left with little choice but to strike. I'd say there is a strong likelihood for our members to strike right now." Garcia said health coverage is of primary concern in the labor talks. "These are people who are trying to bring themselves up out of poverty and getting health insurance is the way they are going to do that," he said. "They are not going to work three more years without it.”

Dick Davis, who is a negotiator for the janitorial companies agrees, at least, with that prediction, "I'm very pessimistic that we'll be able to get a contract this week, and that probably will mean a strike."

During the campaign for downtown janitors, Garcia declared, "Health care for the working poor should not be an afterthought – it is essential to growing healthy and stable communities.”

SEIU Local 1877 proclaims, “For the past 15 years janitors have led the struggle to win a union despite many, many obstacles. Using new ways of organizing and relying on the power of Local 1877 members and non-union workers, we have united to win power and strong contracts from San Diego to Sacramento. In every major California city, workers have sacrificed for the fight, but because of it we have more dignity and respect on the job, health benefits and decent wages.” Sources: RisMedia, 10 News (San Diego), San Diego Union Tribune, SEIU Local 1877