Friday, December 16, 2005
Well, friends it is one of those Fridays where all you get is a reprint (actually two) from other sources. The following are (1) from web site of Upside Down World: Uncovering activism and politics in Latin America. and (2)from web site for IRC Americas Program Special Report
SHOWDOWN IN THE ANDES: BOLIVIAN ELECTION LIKELY TO SHIFT LATIN AMERICA FURTHER TO LEFT
Written by Benjamin Dangl
In Washington he’s been referred to as a "narco-terrorist" and a "threat to stability". In Bolivia he’s simply called "Evo." For many in the Andean country, Presidential candidate Evo Morales represents a way out of poverty and marginalization. He has pledged to nationalize the country’s natural gas reserves, reject any US-backed free trade agreement and join the growing ranks of Latin America’s left-of-center governments. He makes the Bush administration nervous and corporate investors cringe. Yet when Bolivians head to the polls Morales is expected to win a majority. However, the range of scenarios that could result from the election suggests that the show may be far from over by the end of Election Day on December 18th.
Morales is an indigenous, coca grower organizer, and congressman with the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party. More than any other leading candidate, he represents the diverse demands of Bolivia’s social movements. He has promised to change current gas exportation contracts with multinational companies so that profits from the sale go to the neediest sectors of society via social programs in areas such as education and health care. His platform includes setting up micro-credit lending programs, cooperatively-run businesses and organizing a constitutional assembly to rewrite the constitution with the participation of diverse social groups. In a move which is unpopular in Washington, Morales opposes the military’s forced eradication of coca crops, an activity which is funded by the US and has resulted in bloody conflicts and human rights violations.
The other main presidential contender is Jorge Quiroga, who was President of Bolivia from 2001 to 2002 when he finished the term of Hugo Banzer, a former dictator. He was educated in Texas, has worked as an IBM executive and believes in using troops and violence to combat protests. The unofficial favorite of the US Embassy in La Paz, Quiroga is expected to use a hard-line approach on coca eradication, continue with the privatization plan for the country’s gas and work with the US to set up a free trade agreement with Bolivia.
Possible Election Scenarios
Analysts in Bolivia expect Morales, who has consistently led in the polls, to win roughly 36% of the vote. This will put him in first place among a race between eight contenders, but it won’t be enough to secure the presidency. The Bolivian constitution requires that the winner receive more than 50% of the votes in order to become president. If not, congress decides between the top two contenders.
If the decision goes to congress, a series of last minute coalitions are likely to form. In order to win support among the divided political parties in congress, Quiroga is expected to ally with presidential contender Samuel Doria Medina, the owner of the Burger King chain in Bolivia. Morales may also attempt to ally himself with Medina, a deal which would secure the presidency for Morales, but would be unpopular among protest sectors and his own supporters. If he wins a majority by even one vote, Morales may lead protests demanding that congress ratify his victory. Even if Quiroga wins outright, protests against his presidency and subsequent policies are expected to ensue.
US military operations in neighboring Paraguay throw a complicating factor into the equation. Hundreds of US troops arrived in Paraguay on July 1st with planes, weapons and ammunition. Eyewitness reports from a journalist with the Argentine newspaper, Clarin, prove that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the US military. Analysts in the region claim these US troops could be poised for intervention in Bolivia if Morales is elected. (1)
Bolivian Workers Union leader Jaime Solares has warned of US plans for a military coup to frustrate the elections. Solares said the US Embassy backs rightwing Jorge Quiroga in his bid for office, and will go as far as necessary to prevent any other candidate’s victory.
This set of possibilities indicates that even when the results are in on December 18th Bolivia may not know who its president is for some time to come.
Power From Below
Various social movements in Bolivia don’t see the elections as an opportunity for radical change. Some movement leaders argue that a Morales victory will only create smaller obstacles than a Quiroga administration.
"No matter which way you look at it, the elections are not the solution for meeting the demands of the population," said Oscar Olivera, a union leader who led the revolt against Bechtel’s water privatization in Cochabamba in 2000. He believes in the empowerment of the people over giving more power to the government. "However, elections are a space that has presented itself and which we, as autonomous social movements, are taking up in order to accumulate forces to pass over this bridge…we are preparing to enable ourselves firstly to recuperate all that is in the hands of the transnationals and secondly, to find the space for the political participation of working people." (2)
"We will not permit the right to assume control of the government," Olivera continued. "If Evo Morales wins by one vote, we will make sure that that vote is respected, as a bridge in order to make possible the demands of the population. But the right in this country will not return. If it returns, the scenario will be one of imposing the demands of the people by force and not via the democratic road that many want now." (3)
Complete Gas Nationalization on the Horizon?
The debate about what to do with Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, which are the second largest in Latin America, has resulted in numerous popular uprisings against the corporate privatization of the gas. Protestors demand that the gas be nationalized so that the profits can power a political project similar to what President Hugo Chavez helped create in Venezuela. Though Morales is riding the wave of this gas nationalization movement, it’s still uncertain how far he will go with a nationalization plan.
According to an interview conducted by New York Times Magazine writer David Rieff, when Morales speaks of nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas he isn’t referring to total expropriation of the multinational gas businesses in Bolivia. "Brazil is an interesting model" for cooperation between the state and the private sector, Morales said, "so is China." (4)
Carlos Villegas, MAS's principal economic spokesman and a researcher at the University of San Andrés in La Paz, told Rieff, "The current contracts say that the multinationals own the resources when they're in the ground and are free to set prices of natural gas and oil once it has been extracted." Morales intends to renegotiate these contracts and enforce a law passed last March which reasserts national ownership of resources.
Many Bolivians see the recuperation of the gas reserves as a way to reverse the trend of corporate exploitation which has bombarded their country. For decades, as foreign companies reaped enormous profits from Bolivian natural resources such as gold, rubber and tin, Bolivia struggled on as one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The movement to nationalize the gas is an attempt to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
"The population," Villegas explained, "is demanding to know why these resources haven't lifted the country out of poverty. And they blame the privatization imposed by international lenders."
"We want the gas to be industrialized here in Bolivia," Teodoro Calle, a Aymara street vender from El Alto, told North American Congress on Latin America reporter Reed Lindsay in late October 2003. Calle had been shot in the leg by the Bolivian military while protesting against a plan to export natural gas to the United States. (5)
"Before, perhaps we agreed to everything, but not anymore," said Calle. "People know now what’s going on…. But the government wants to sell the gas abroad at the price of a dead chicken. That’s why we’re fighting. Every neighbor, every Bolivian, that’s why."
Sources of Instability
Michael Shifter, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy group in Washington, said "People [in Washington] talk about [Morales] as if he were the Osama bin Laden of Latin America." After a recent lecture Shifter gave at a military institution, two American officers came up to him and said that Morales "was a terrorist, a murderer, the worst thing ever." Shifter replied that he had seen no evidence of this. "They told me: ‘You should. We have classified information: this guy is the worst thing to happen in Latin America in a long time.’" (6)
On a plane to Paraguay on August 17th, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld discussed what he saw were the causes of rebellion in Bolivia, "Any time you see issues involving stability in a country, it is something that one wishes would be resolved in a democratic, peaceful way. There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways." (7)
US officials have yet to offer any evidence to support these claims.
Recent events in Bolivia illustrate that widespread poverty and the growing political muscle of impoverished indigenous groups have contributed to the country’s unrest. The last five years in Bolivia have seen numerous citizen revolts over policies that were exported to the country from Washington. In April 2000 the residents of Cochabamba rebelled against water privatization pushed by the World Bank (the Bank chief is chosen by the White House), and carried out by the Bechtel corporation. In February 2003, thirty four Bolivians were killed during protests against an income tax hike imposed by the International Monetary Fund, (the US is the only single nation which holds a veto over the fund’s policies). In October 2003, over sixty Bolivians were killed in protests against a plan to privatize and export the country’s gas to California, a deal supported by the US Embassy in Bolivia.
These events suggest that a Morales victory will lessen the instability in the country by better-representing the political agenda of social movements and allowing for more political participation among marginalized groups. Morales’ attempt to respond to the demands of protest sectors has given him vast support among a discontented populace.
The fact that many of Bolivia’s social movements, as well as the Morales campaign, are well-organized, grassroots responses to neo-liberal economics and US foreign policy is disconcerting for the White House which, on December 18th, is likely to find itself one step further away from quelling the revolution in its own "backyard".
Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist in Bolivia and edits www.UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine uncovering activism and politics in Latin America, and www.TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Email: Ben(at)upsidedownworld.org
1. Benjamin Dangl, "Eyes on US Troops in Paraguay as Bolivian Election Nears", Upside Down World, 11-16-05 http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/116/1/
2. Federico Fuentes, "Bolivia: Oscar Olivera: ‘We are preparing ourselves for something big’", Green Left Weekly, 12-7-05
4. David Rieff, "Che’s Second Coming?", NY Times Magazine, 12-20-05
5. Reed Lindsay, "Exporting Gas and Importing Demoracy in Bolivia", North American Congress on Latin America, 11-05
7. Benjamin Dangl, "Operation Latin American Freedom", Upside Down World, 10-16-05 http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/65/1/
Two Opposing Views of Social Change in Bolivia
By Raúl Zibechi | December 14, 2005
Translated from: Bolivia: dos visiones opuestas del cambio social
Translated by: Nick Henry
Bolivia's social movements divide roughly into two camps on the issue of how to effect structural reforms: those who advocate that the central government should play the leading role and those who insist that organized civil society must play that role.
The December 18 election will be the first since the September-October 2003 popular uprising that toppled the government of then-President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and brought to the fore issues such as the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the call for a National Constituent Assembly. For the first time in this Andean country's history where more than 60% of the population identifies itself as indigenous, an indigenous candidate could become president.
In the 2002 presidential elections, the U.S. ambassador, Manuel Rocha, directly intervened in the electoral campaign by saying that “his government would view with disfavor the election of Evo Morales” of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS, for its initials in Spanish), whom he accused of being a “narco-cocaine producer” and an “instrument” of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
Lately, however, the embassy has opted to remain silent but there is no doubt that it would prefer the victory of Jorge Tuto Quiroga, former vice president under Hugo Bánzer (first a dictator, then a constitutional president), or of Samuel Doria Medina, one of the wealthiest businessmen in the country. Both these candidates represent the neoliberal right wing, although the second presents himself as a centrist.
A Complicated Situation
The candidate who emerges as president from the voting booths will face a political landscape shaped by the power of grassroots movements. Since 2000 popular movements have challenged each successive president to the point where two (Sánchez de Lozada and his successor Carlos Mesa) were unable to finish out their terms. The Bolivian government rests on a narrow social stratum and does not represent the immense majority of the population.
Bolivia is a colonial state: Although more than 60% of the population is indigenous and speaks primarily Aymara and Quechua, only Spanish-speaking whites and mestizos hold ministerial or judicial positions, positions of leadership in the armed forces, or high-level offices in public administration. Until recently, they controlled almost every single seat in the parliament. In the 2002 elections, a significant number of indigenous representatives won legislative seats: 35 deputies and senators from the MAS party, and six from the Pachakutik Indigenous Movement (MIP, for its initials in Spanish).
It is a racist state, both because of its lack of integration and its attitude toward the majority of the population. A poor Indian, who does not speak Spanish well and dresses traditionally, has little to no chance of winning a lawsuit in court against a white person well-versed in the dominant administrative system who has resources and influence. In some ways, the continued revolts since the famous “Water War” of 2000 in Cochabamba represent the rise of the marginalized who are struggling to find new forums for expression, consolidate their own spaces, and assert their rights. To be heard, they have rebelled—at the cost of over one hundred deaths and thousands of wounded.
The strength of the Bolivian social movements, today the strongest on the continent, has forced the elite to backpedal. According to all indications, they would be willing to tolerate a government presided over by an indigenous leader. The last polls show Morales with a 2-5 point lead over Quiroga.
If it appears after the election that Morales won the most votes and the parliament chooses not to recognize him as president, the country would descend into an ungovernable turmoil since the majority would feel cheated.
It is also likely that if a MAS government does not succeed in taking rapid steps toward nationalizing the oil and gas industry and convoking a National Constituent Assembly, the dissatisfaction of the population would prevent it from maintaining the minimum level of stability necessary for governing.
The demand for a Constituent Assembly demonstrates the complexity of the situation in Bolivia. One problem is the relative autonomy of Santa Cruz, the wealthiest district of the country, made up in large part of landowners tied to the agribusiness industry that see the indigenous population as a threat to their interests. This sector aspires to separate itself from the rest of the country and has been accused of maintaining armed militias ready to fight the social movement.
Another problem facing the next government is the future of the oil industry. Here Brazil has enormous interests in Bolivia. Petrobras, the Brazilian state-owned oil giant, controls 25% of the natural gas reserves located in the Tarija district, owns the pipelines for exporting gas to Brazil and the country's two petroleum refineries, and controls close to 40% of the livestock and agriculture business of Santa Cruz, much of which is run by Brazilian ranchers.
Alvaro García Linera, a sociologist and the vice-presidential candidate for MAS, observed, “Brazil has many interests in Bolivia. It is a powerful country and will surely seek to protect its interests. The United States does not have direct interests in the oil industry because it does not have any businesses in the area.”
Brazil's behavior toward Bolivia has raised many doubts in the past. During the extended Bolivian crises, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's adviser, Marco Aurelio García, visited the country twice to ensure that despite the chaos, the flow of natural gas from Bolivia to Brazil would not be disrupted. That flow is vital for an industry like Sao Pablo's, the productive center of the country, which gets 30% of its gas from Bolivia. Lula himself was in Bolivia just before the 2004 referendum on the oil and gas industry, to defend the business interests of the state-owned Petrobras. In García Linera's opinion, Brazil is keenly interested in the political stability of its neighbor. “We hope that when the oil and gas industry is discussed there is a non-interventionist attitude, with no pressure and acceptance of Bolivia's sovereignty,” he noted. But at one point later in the interview he added: “We fear Brazil more than we do the United States.”
In any case, MAS is showing itself to be more and more prudent on the issue of nationalization. The objective, it seems, is not nationalization but rather, to work towards “a modification of relations where foreign investors are minority partners with the government,” he concluded. MAS leaders are conscious of the tight space they have for maneuvering: if they decide the Bolivian State should nationalize the oil and gas industry, they will confront multinational corporations and powerful regional and world forces. But if they do not, the population could take to the streets again, thus destabilizing even a government run by an indigenous president.
Government as the Instrument for Change
Evo Morales' running mate was a member of the Guerrilla Army of Tupac Katari during the 1990s and spent five years in prison. Consistent with his past, he maintains a vision of social change in which the state is the principal protagonist, although now he believes these changes will take place through legal and peaceful avenues.
“After the events of June when the popular uprising forced Mesa's resignation,” reflected Alvaro García Linera, “the country entered a period of truce and the process of electoralización of the struggle for power began. Bolivia has been living through a power struggle for four years now. There is a polarization between the candidates, which is expressed through a polarization of platforms. Evo Morales' proposal is for reform, nationalization of the oil and gas industry, redistribution of wealth and land, and to give the state a new role in the economy, weakening the role of foreign investment.”
The experience of MAS cannot be compared to that of other parties on the continent in large part because Morales is an indigenous leader in a society where indigenous peoples have always been excluded. His candidacy represents a radical departure from the norm, since it is in essence the decolonization of the nation state. The second difference is that MAS is not a party but rather “a coalition of flexible social movements that has expanded its actions to the electoral arena. There is no structure; it is a leader and movements, and there is nothing in between. This means that MAS must depend on mobilizations or on the temperament of the social movements,” says Garcia Linera. The third difference is that Evo Morales's candidacy occurs at a time when neoliberal policies are experiencing a moral defeat throughout the hemisphere.
García Linera believes that Bolivia is experiencing profound social and cultural changes that also affect the electoral realm. Before, “the indigenous population always voted for non-indigenous candidates because they saw themselves as incapable.” In this context, the massive support for the indigenous candidacy of Morales indicates “an ideological breakdown of domination.”
But not having a solid party is producing unprecedented difficulties too. García Linera rhetorically asks: “How can you govern through social movements?” In his view, “Governments concentrate the decision-making process and social movements decentralize it. How can the state be reconciled with the movements? Social movements seek power but then often fall back into corporativist practices. Social movements cannot direct nor occupy the state.”
This debate is crucial for a party that has essentially been formed by the movement of campesino coca leaf producers of Chapare and receives support from many of the nation's other principal social movements, including members of mining cooperatives, the “irrigation” campesinos of Cochabamba who launched the Water War in 2000, the Landless Movement, part of the National Campesino Organization, and the neighborhood councils of El Alto.
As an intellectual, García Linara posits that power is not something to be taken, but rather a social relationship built on the existing balance of forces. But as a politician, he defends the centrality of the state in society, to the point of maintaining that there is no way to avoid it: “The Constitution and the law constitute a map for social movements, since we all played a role in creating the state. The state is domination, and at the same time, resistance. All struggles pass through the state—even the struggle against the state passes through the state. The social movement builds resistance to the state, and also demands rights within the state.” In line with this conclusion, MAS proposes to change the character of the Bolivian state, passing from what is described as a colonial state to a democratic one.
The centrality of the state in MAS's views is not just based on the leftist traditions of Latin America, but also on some notable characteristics of Western culture. “The State is the only rational entity in Bolivia,” observed García Linera. “The future of Bolivia is modernity, according to García Linera, “not the family-based economy.”
“In El Alto, 60 soldiers killed 70 people in half an hour,” he said, “Is it possible to overcome the odds under these conditions? Until you have modernity on your side, you cannot win. Premodernity cannot triumph. The traditional and local are products of domination. To praise them is to praise domination. The ‘local' is encouraged by the World Bank.” Such claims are certainly controversial in a country where the majority of the population belongs to the sector considered premodern, including the family-based or informal economic sectors.
Betting on Civil Society
Perhaps the clearest alternative to the state-centered proposal is emerging from participants in Cochabamba's “Water War.” Price increases under privatization gave rise to the most important cycle of protests since the revolution of 1952. Oscar Olivera, of the Water Coordinating Committee of Cochabamba, is a point of reference for those looking beyond the December 18 elections.
In spite of the fact that Olivera, like many of his allies, more or less conditionally supports MAS, he maintains: “The elections are a maneuver of the right wing, transnational corporations, and the United States to dilute and hinder the popular movement of the last five years to nationalize the oil and gas industry.” But he also considers the elections to be “a space in which conservative and popular agendas confront each other.” Olivera believes it is necessary to participate in the elections because they form part of “a process of building strength so that in the next government—whoever controls it—we can regain control of natural resources and end the monopoly that the political parties have over electoral politics.”
Nevertheless, Olivera fears that a MAS-run government would be limited to running the state, seeking greater autonomy from international financial institutions, and little more. “That would be fatal because the people want much more,” he said. For the social movements, Olivera believes, the scene can be very complex, since Evo Morales and MAS in the name of governing may be able to assume control “and direct the movements to manage water rights in El Alto and Cochabamba or redistribute land.”
This type of maneuver would lend support to Morales' claim that he is the only one who can govern the country because of the good relations he maintains with the social movements. A second problem is that they are “beginning to add labels to nationalization.” Now Morales talks of a “responsible nationalization,” which, in Olivera's opinion, causes people to suspect they will be tricked again and that a MAS-led government will be limited to “administering a state apparatus that does not work, instead of supporting the struggles that have been taking place for five years.”
As a way of continuing to strengthen the social movements, considered the key to Bolivia's future, the sectors grouped in the National Association of Irrigation Farmers and the Potable Water Committees convoked the first Congress of the National Front for the Defense of Water and Basic Human Services in early December. This alliance of movements—whose best-known example is the Water Coordinating Committee of Cochabamba—brings together some of the most dynamic movements in the country, including the Federation of Neighborhood Councils of El Alto (FEJUVE, for its initials in Spanish), the Coordinating Committee of Neighborhood Councils of the outlying districts of Oruro, the semi-urban and rural Water and Drainage Cooperatives of Santa Cruz, in addition to neighborhood organizations, irrigation farmers, cooperatives, as well as committees on water rights, electricity, and the defense of basic services from almost all of the districts.
This alliance brings together some of the most interesting collective management experience, although this has not been covered by the media. Prime examples are that of Oruro and Santa Cruz. Oruro is a traditional mining city, while Santa Cruz is the most dynamic economic region of the country, where there is a high incidence of rural and indigenous emigration. In both cities, the State fails to cover the most basic public services for the poorest parts of the population.
The Coordinating Committee of semi-urban neighborhood councils of Oruro is the most powerful social factor of the Northern Plateau, according to Olivera, and “has created autonomous forms of management for providing water, collecting garbage, eliminating waste on the edge of town, providing electricity legitimately while exercising autonomy.”
“This is something new,” he said, “that they have managed this without the help of advisers or experts. I would say it is a more profound experience than that of El Alto's, though not as politicized.” The grassroots organizations of Oruro have created new structures of social and economic relations in outlying communities where the government has been absent. Under the name of Coordinating Committee, they are emulating the experience of Cochabamba while at the same time establishing a strong relationship with the other members of the National Front.
In the eastern zone, for decades there have been water cooperatives in the semi-urban areas of Santa Cruz building wells collectively. Unlike in Cochabamba, where each cooperative has a few dozen or a few hundred families, in Santa Cruz they vary between 6 and 15 thousand hookups, providing water for nearly a million users. Now they have decided to fight not just for water but also for basic services like electricity, natural gas, garbage collection, and decontamination of the rivers.
According to Olivera, “There exists a model of decentralized water management system run by neighborhoods. That model is expanding. The old cooperatives from 20 years ago in the semi-urban zones of Santa Cruz have generated a strong change in the social relations of the city and region. Now one of the most important centers for the National Front is located in Santa Cruz.”
The idea of defining and synthesizing all of these collective and communal management experiences emerged one year ago. It is focused on highlighting alternatives to the public and private models (since they share a strong theme of centralization that discourages social participation) that are, in effect, already functioning. In almost all cases, they are making political demands, like not paying certain taxes (such as certain Santa Cruz cooperatives have done) and demanding regular deliveries of domestic natural gas. Almost all of them seek to change law concerning electricity and potable water.
“We are letting the next government know we are creating a movement, a nonpartisan social-political front that addresses the most vital needs of the people through a profound change in power relations, social relations, and the management of water, electricity, and garbage,” Olivera concluded.
An Uncertain Future
The debate over the long-term options of the social movements takes on special importance when faced with the possibility of Morales becoming president. According to most political forecasts, his government would be “handcuffed” and his authority to govern questioned along every step of the way. The Senate will be in the hands of the right. The administration will be obligated to make alliances with members of the House of Representatives, and it is unlikely that MAS will win any of the nine available seats being contested.
Faced with these circumstances, the director of the Center for Judicial Studies and Social Research (CEJIS, for its initials in Spanish) of Santa Cruz, Carlos Romero, observed, “Whoever controls the political power of the various regions, with demands for autonomy in several of them, can block the governing power of the central government in those regions, especially if the MAS party wins, by implementing a kind of regional siege on the central power.”
MAS's political-electoral decision was to give heightened visibility to Evo Morales at the expense of undercutting the rest of the candidates. “This misjudgment has become evident in every corner of the country,” argued Mario Ronald Durán, ex-university director. Faced with this somber situation, it is being asked: “Is it smart for MAS to control the next government under these circumstances?”
This question should not be taken lightly, given other experiences in the region, particularly that of PT and President Lula in Brazil, which demonstrate the cost of governing without solid institutional support. But in Bolivia, the situation is graver still, since unlike with PT and the Broad Front of Uruguay (which took hold of the presidency after having governed the most important municipalities and states of the country), MAS does not have any experience managing institutional affairs, in a state apparatus where the public officials of the colonial order will be capable of neutralizing any decision made by the executive branch led by Morales.
It's unlikely that the profound cycle of protest in Bolivia between 2000 and 2005 (which peaked in October 2003) has come to an end. More likely, there will be a regrouping of grassroots forces that Olivera describes. In 2005 social movements have managed to dismantle critical manifestations of the dominant order. But its organizing power has been confined to certain social sectors, especially the Aymara, as well as to urban sectors like that of El Alto. Nevertheless, the ability of the social movement to deploy its forces, which has proved powerful enough to topple governments and obstruct elite policies, hasn't been capable of creating alternative forms of governance that encompass the whole country.
The challenge now is for social movements to find ways of growing in a new, more adverse context, which could oscillate between attempts by the government to co-opt or divide them one on side and on the other side by diverse and complex forms of repression—be they from the state itself or from civil organizations like those that are associated with the autonomy-seeking right wing in Santa Cruz.
In any case, social movements will continue to grow—as is being shown by the experiences of the Front for the Defense of Water and Basic Human Services. It is coming from a process of internal development of the new social actors—a type of internal growth that seeks to deepen the experience of collective control over production and reproduction. It was this path that allowed the Bolivian social movement, toward the end of the 1990s, to make a tremendous leap forward. But like the development of Zapatista autonomy or the one that led the Brazilian landless rural population to take their demands to the city, it is a process that is largely ignored by dominant media.
Translated for the IRC Americas Program by Nick Henry.
Raúl Zibechi, a member of the editorial board of the weekly Brecha de Montevideo, is a professor and researcher on social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina and adviser to several grassroots organizations. He is a monthly contributor to the IRC Americas Program ( www.americaspolicy.org). Translated from Spanish by Nick Henry.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Few are talking about, but the truth is out there.
Santa Claus is in deep do do.
As global warming melts his Arctic homes, Rudolph and his brother and sister reindeer are under threat, along with - polar bears, ice-dwelling seals and several forms of Arctic vegetation - not to mention the many indigenous human inhabitants of the area.
"We are already seeing signs of significant change in the Arctic with mountain glaciers retreating, snow cover disappearing, the Greenland ice sheet thinning and Arctic sea ice cover declining," said World Wildlife Fund climate campaigner Andrew Lee.
"All these changes tell us there is no time to lose - we need to take drastic action now to combat climate change."
Ethan Matsuda, 7, of Yorba Linda, California, is so worried about the future of Santa Claus, he’s written a book of fiction aimed at other kids warning of the situation.
It's called "The North Pole Is Sinking!"
Ethan has been reading about global warming and concerns that pollution and reckless use of energy is warming the Earth's atmosphere. And, since he has more brains then President Bush, he concluded world wide climate change is threatening the ice around the North Pole.
"There's a lot we need to do," Ethan says. "People should be thinking about Santa."
In Ethan’s story, Santa flies from the North Pole looking for help. Somewhere over Southern California, Santa and his reindeer hit a cloud of smog and crash onto the roof of a home occupied by a boy named Ethan.
The character -- who the real Ethan excitedly admits was inspired by him -- asks for help solving the problem from his teacher, "Mrs. Counts" -- named after his aunt Jackie Counts.
Ethan remembered reading about alternative energy sources and giant wind generators of Denmark in that month's National Geographic -- the one for adults.
So Ethan incorporated that into the story, too, having students write letters advocating the use of clean energy to "Mrs. President."
"That's because there's never been a woman president," Ethan explains. "And there should be."
Ethan is joined in his concern by scientists with the International Santa Impacts Taskforce (ISIT) who, as reported in the San Diego Earth Times and the North Pole Gazette, warn that the impacts of global warming are endangering Santa Claus, his elves, his reindeer and the entire operations at the North Pole. The Climate Risks and Impacts to Santa (CRIS) Report predicted that global warming trends will force changes in Santa's worldwide efforts.
The report relies on recent scientific studies that document significant reductions in the thickness and extent of North Pole sea ice and find that the Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the globe.
The retreat and thinning of the sea ice means that Santa's home and sizable workshops at the North Pole sit on increasingly unstable and ever-thinning ice. Ultimately, global warming will force Santa to relocate.
In particular, the CRIS Report identifies a number of likely changes to Santa's operations:
• Loss of Santa's Reindeer. Higher temperatures will prohibit the use of cold-loving reindeer to pull Santa's sleigh and threaten this cold-adapted species with extinction. Although Santa says he will do everything in his power to save his friends, alternative proposals are being brought forward. The leading proposal for reindeer replacement is a team of eight "Christmas Camels," though due to regional sensitivities, Santa is also considering a mixed team including wildebeests, water buffaloes, llamas, yaks and kangaroos. A number of competing proposals have come from off-road motorcycle and Sport Utility Vehicle manufacturers. However, Santa is no dummy and he is not going for those proposals from the very people who are significant contributors to the destruction of not only his home, but his home planet, as well.
• Loss of Santa's Elves. A move from the North Pole is expected to create immigration problems and force a lowering in quality of life, as the elves seek to compete with local labor. Santa, a long time opponent of neo liberal policies and corporate globalization is doing all he can to alleviate any problems from his possible forced relocation or out sourcing. The White House, and its conservative base, however, have warned Santa and his Elves that they any violation of US immigration laws will be met with stiff penalties, jail time, and deportations.
• Christmas Carols Crossover. I'm Dreaming of a Light Christmas, Let it Flow, Let it Flow, Let it Flow, and Walking in a Summer Sunnyland are just a few titles hoping to adapt.
• Decreasing Use of Stockings. Due to increasing temperatures, fewer people will have large, heavy stockings and fireplaces. The Report predicts that children will substitute baseball caps and sandals and will hang the receptacle of their choice over air conditioning ducts and room air conditioners and from ceiling fans. In response to this situation Santa is advocating extensive research on low energy, no Freon air conditioning systems.
• Move to Virtual Christmas Trees. Higher temperatures are predicted to decrease Christmas Tree habitat and increase the number of tree fires, both indoors and out. An immediate solution may come in the form of virtual trees. Santa’s elves are working on the software right now. Santa has actually long discouraged the chopping down of trees for use as temporary Christmas decorations. However, Santa does recognize how many children just love those trees. That is just one of many reasons Santa has joined with the Rainforest Action Network and EarthFirst on a number of projects to save the worlds forests from destruction.
• Relocation of Santa's Workshops. The primary qualification for a new location is that it be remote and mysterious. Rumored possible locations include the Sahara Desert, Central Asia, the Australian Outback, Mount Everest, Siberia, a number of coral atolls (if there are any left), and the Great Plains. On a different front, Disney has proposed a joint venture with Santa, including an offer to construct Santa theme parks near major metropolitan areas world wide. That offer was promptly turned down by Santa who scoffed at the notion of joining with an international corporation in any venture whatsoever.
The CRIS Report predicts that before you know it the North Pole will be slushy to just a segment of the Arctic Ocean in summer months, with possible uneven settling or sinking of Santa's home and workshops. At some point, the report says, the North Pole will no longer provide a viable base of operations for Santa, forcing change on both Santa Claus and Christmas traditions worldwide.
In a recent interview Santa worried, "These forced changes will have severe impacts on my operations and may open the door to increased competition from Corporate network mascots. How would you like to receive your gifts from the Warner Christmas Frog?"
Asked to comment, a representative from a fossil fuel industry-backed lobbying group, the Coalition for the Ultimate Santa (CoalfortheUS), dismissed the impacts of both Santa and global warming.
Joined at a Press Conference today by President George Bush, CoalfortheUS representative E. Stooge stated, "It's time that children, scientists and environmentalists accept that both Santa Claus and human-caused global warming are fantasy. Rather than limiting our so-called greenhouse gas emissions, we must adapt the cultural identity of Santa and Christmas to these natural changes." In a related development, the coal industry kicked off a barrage of pre-holiday ads, pushing parents to purchase lumps of coal for their children. The industry asserts that giving young children coal for the holidays promotes more rapid maturation and earlier productivity.
People for Authentic Santas Everywhere, PEASE, a citizen's advocacy group working to support the traditional Santa via a grass roots "S.O.S. - Save Our Santa" campaign, stated, "If you need proof that industry is readying you for global warming-induced changes in Santa, watch this season's TV ads to see the corporate vision for the future: Santa in SUVs, Santa surrounded by fashion models, Santa in sunglasses, Santa using UPS, Santa on the internet. We can act now to curb global warming or we can lose the Santa we know and love."
Save Our Santa was set in motion by recent news reports about the impacts of global warming on the Arctic (North Pole) ice cap.
Scientists at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway found a 4.6 percent decline in ice extent and a 5.8 percent decline in actual ice area between 1978 and 1994. Further, scientists at the University of Washington, using data acquired by U.S. Navy submarines, discovered a "striking" reduction in the thickness of Arctic sea ice, including the ice under the North Pole, as compared with 20-40 years ago. The average draft of the sea ice (that is, its thickness from the ocean surface to the bottom of the ice pack) has declined on average by 4.3 feet (1.3 meters). This represents a reduction of about 40 percent as compared with the earlier period.
"The big melt has begun," Jennifer Morgan, director of the World Wildlife Fund's global climate change campaign, said in a statement. "Life on Earth will change beyond recognition with the loss of the ice sheet at the north pole and higher sea levels threatening major global cities such as London."
And what of Santa Claus?????
Sources: North Pole Gazette, Indianapolis Star, Earth Times (San Diego), Politics.com, IOL (London)
The father of a boy suspended for speaking Spanish in school has sued the school district and its officials for violating his son's civil rights. Lorenzo Rubio filed the lawsuit in federal court in Kansas City, Kan., on behalf of his son, Zachariah.
Rubio says that his son’s civil rights were violated when he was suspended in late November. Rubio seeks an unspecified amount in actual and punitive damages. Among other things, he also seeks an order to prevent the school district and staff from discriminating against children on the basis of their race and national origin.
Rubio named as defendants the school district; Superintendent Bobby Allen; Endeavor Alternative School Principal Jennifer Watts; and Endeavor teacher Susan Serzyski and five other unnamed teachers.
Rubio also named as defendants the Turner school board.
Zachariah is a student at Endeavor High School, an alternative program in the Kansas City-Turner School District. He was suspended in late November for speaking Spanish during lunch and later outside of class with a friend.
Zach and a friend were told not to speak Spanish in the lunch area. As he left to go to his class, he started speaking Spanish again to his friend and was told again not to speak Spanish on the way to class. About 45 minutes later, he was sent back to the office by his teacher for speaking Spanish to a classmate in a classroom. Zach was then told to call his father because he was suspended from school for the rest of the day and the next. A "reasonable" request to not speak Spanish at school, signed by Jennifer Watts, the principal of the school, was written on a disciplinary referral. In addition to the reason for suspension, Watts also wrote, "This is not the first time we have asked Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school."
The elder Rubio told the Kansas City Kansan after the incident occured his son had called him and told him he’d been suspended for speaking Spanish. "I could not believe it. I went to the school and spoke to Mrs. (Jennifer) Watts and asked her if this was school policy. She told me, 'no,' but said 'We are not in Mexico, we are not in Germany.'"
"If they did this to my son, who knows his rights, then how many kids has she mistreated in this manner, who are afraid to stand up?" he asked.
Zach, a junior at the Endeaver School, is American born and proficient in English and Spanish. He said he often speaks Spanish to his friends, in his home when they come over to play video games, at the mall, and places outside of school.
"It's just natural for me to speak to them in Spanish," Zach said. "Some of them don't speak English that well, and it is easier for them. Sometimes I just talk to them and I don't think about what language I am speaking. Sometimes it just comes out. My friend was going on a job interview that day and we were talking about that when (Watts) told us not to speak Spanish. I was trying to be nice to her. I asked her why she did not want me to speak Spanish and she got mad. She said 'I don't want to hear it in my building.' My friend then asked me for a dollar in Spanish and she started yelling at me. I have heard her tell other Spanish-speaking people the same thing."
Rubio's daughter, Sara, a ninth grade student at Turner High School, said that Spanish is taught at the school. Sara said she would like to go into law enforcement or social work, two fields that are seeking to recruit bilingual personnel. "At Turner, they don't let us speak Spanish," Sara said. She has heard other students being told the same thing that happened to her brother, she said.
"My son did not fight with anyone; he did not offend anyone," Rubio said. "Enough is enough. Watts is still there and she got her way when my son lost two days of school. My son worked hard to learn Spanish. How can she say she does not want him to speak Spanish? Some of the students are afraid and they take this abuse. She picked on the wrong Spanish-speaking family. She told me, 'in my building I do not allow Spanish.' This is a slap in the face to us."
Zach was reinstated after the incident became widely publicized.
Kansas City lawyer Chuck Chionuma, who is representing the Rubios, said Zachariah Rubio’s constitutional rights under federal and state laws were violated when he was suspended.
“Zach was punished for being Hispanic,” Chionuma told the Kansas City Star. “He was suspended from school and lost two days of his education. His only offense was being Hispanic and speaking his native language.”
“I think that is very reprehensible and should not be tolerated at all,” Chionuma said. “Clearly she was in violation of both state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination.”
Chionuma said it was not the first instance in which a Hispanic student had been disciplined for speaking Spanish in a Turner district school. Other students, he said, had kept quite because of the immigration status of family members.
He also said the Rubios decided to pursue the lawsuit to make sure that other students were not discriminated against.
“It should not be tolerated at all,” Chionuma said. Sources: Hispanic Business.com, Latino Pundit, Kansas City Kansan, WIBW (Topeka), Kansas City Star
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
1)AN OREAD DAILY ARTICLE
2)A NUMBER OF STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE RACIAL VIOLENCE IN AUSTRALIA
3)ANNOUNCEMENTS CONCERNING SOME PLANNED ANTI-RACIST EVENTS.
I HAVE NOT CORRECTED SECTIONS 2 OR 3 FOR SPELLING OR GRAMMER.
Australian authorities are bracing for more violence in Sydney this weekend after race riots in the city's southern suburbs shocked the country. Violence erupted on Sydney’s beaches Sunday, following days of media provocation. Some 5,000 people rallied against so-called “Lebanese gangs”, then attacked immigrants and Muslims, who had been accused over the past week of harassing beach-goers. More than 20 people were injured, and two were stabbed, in confrontations across a number of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. About 100 cars were also vandalized.
Youths of Middle Eastern appearance retaliated with a rash of attacks on people and property on Sunday and Monday nights.
Carl Scully, the police minister for New South Wales, confirmed on Wednesday that officers would continue to be on high alert after more than 400 police officers maintained calm overnight in the affected suburbs, including Cronulla.
Last night's plan was much the same as Tuesday night's, with officers setting up roadblocks in southern Sydney and ready to go to where they are called. Police were sent to the earlier hotspots of Maroubra Beach and Brighton Le Sands, and to Lakemba, in the heartland of the city's Muslim community. They are also making special arrangements to deal with the new wave of ethnic violence until at least the end of January.
"We need to be aware that there is a risk of incidents continuing," Scully said. "On the weekend, there will be a huge police presence across Sydney on Saturday and Sunday."
Scully said telephone text messages inciting violence were continuing to circulate in Sydney and other Australian cities. The new text messages are apparently similar to ones last week that encouraged a mob of 5000 white Australians, including some neo-Nazis, to gather at Cronulla beach in southern Sydney and attack people of Middle Eastern appearance.
Australian lawmakers planned to give police tough new powers, including shutting bars and erecting roadblocks, to crack down on rioters and keep the peace. Police will also get additional powers to confiscate vehicles owned by people involved in social unrest.
Some representatives of Sydney's Arabic community have called for a voluntary curfew on all Lebanese youth this weekend, to help prevent further race-related violence. It was among a series of proposals agreed on during a meeting last night at Lakemba Mosque, in Sydney's south.
A youth representative on the Prime Minister's Muslim Community Reference Group says a curfew will not work. Instead, Mustapha Kara-Ali has urged community leaders to set up a public forum.
"Ultimately, the only thing that can help the situation is for these youth to be heard," he told the Australian Broadcasting Network. "I would've hoped that these community leaders would offer these youth some public forum and be handed the microphone so they can be listened to directly, rather than being told what to do and what not to do."
Islamic leader Fadi Abdul Rahman suggested further trouble could be brewing, saying Muslim youths felt angry that police were not treating them fairly.
"They feel they have been dealt with by the authorities differently to the way Anglos have been dealt with," he told the Seven Network.
"They feel injustice and they feel angry about it."
Meanwhile members of Sydney's Middle Eastern and surfing communities yesterday embraced at Maroubra Beach in a symbolic attempt to end the ethnic tensions.
Lebanese Muslim leader Keysar Trad and Maroubra's surfer gang, the Bra Boys, are attempting to broker a peace deal between rival groups following race riots in Sydney.
Mr Trad, president of the Islamic Friendship Association, and two Bra Boys leaders, Kobe and Sonny Abberton, have held talks about ways to encourage people to stop the violence.
Mr Trad said the Bra Boys were one of the most multicultural groups of surfers in Australia and showed people from all backgrounds could enjoy the beach.
"They [the Bra Boys] expressed their outrage at what happened at Cronulla and they expressed their support and appreciation for the Middle Eastern community," Mr Trad said.
"They have many friends who are from a Lebanese and Middle Eastern background and of various religions, so they want peace.
"I have to say that I respect the petitions that they have made and I hope that society will heed this message."
The Lebanese community condemned the violence, Mr Trad said.
"We have always condemned the … violence or anti-social behaviour on the beaches or anywhere else," Mr Trad told Channel Nine earlier.
"What you are seeing today is people who are trying to … heal the rift and to bring society together and show everyone that we can stand together united against violence and welcome everyone to the beaches and say that the beaches are a public space for everyone to enjoy."
Maroubra's Bra Boys surfer gang and the Comancheros bikies gang also met to discuss the situation before condemning the violence of the past few days. The two rival gangs have vowed to stay out of the racial violence.
Bra Boys member Sonny Abberton said on Tuesday his gang and the Comancheros, who have a large Lebanese membership, were working together to burst the bubble of racial hatred.
His brother and fellow Bra Boys member Jai Abberton said: "We (the Bra Boys) have never been involved in any of this racial tension".
"We certainly don't support these silly people at Cronulla, starting a racial war and biting off more than they can chew," Mr Abberton said.
"This is the start of some dialect between our groups to try to ease some tension and calm the racial violence that can never be tolerated in Australia," Sonny Abberton said.
And finally, this bit of discouraging news from New Zealand.
Inflammatory posters calling for New Zealanders to show "white power" and riot Australian-style are being pasted up at Wellington railway stations.
"If Sydney can do it so can we...let's take back our land," the posters – found at Khandallah and Simla Crescent stations – say. A poster was also reported to have been seen at Raroa station near Johnsonville.
The little known white supremacist group "White Crusaders of the Racial Holy War" claims to be behind the Wellington posters.
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said he had not heard of the group but was not surprised it existed in New Zealand.
There had been a number of race hate incidents over the past year, including the vandalism of Muslim worship centers in Auckland and abusive letters being stuffed with pork and sent to Wellington Muslims.
"There are people in New Zealand who have the kind of views evident in Australia but they have never had much of a following in New Zealand," he said.
The White Crusaders' Internet website says the movement is based on the writings of Ken Klassen, the founder of Creativity, a religion that believes whites are royalty and shuns race mixing or any social intercourse with "the inferior mud races". Sources: Australian Racism and Islamophobia - Activism and Resources,Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Aljazeera, The Australian, Stuff (NZ), News.com. au
Statement on racist attacks
Issued by Resistance, the Australian socialist youth organization
In response to the weekend's events in Cronulla, John Howard has attempted to deny the existence of “an underlying racism” in Australia. Instead Howard has tried to explain the events as nothing more than a question of law and order, saying, "violence, thuggery, loutish behaviour, smashing peoples' property, intimidating people - all of those things are breaches of the law and I don't think the actions should be given some kind of special status because they occur against the background of this or that.”
The “background” against which these events have occurred is exactly what Howard is trying to draw attention away from. The “background” is the government's incitement of anti-Muslim racism as a means to justify the latest “anti-terror” legislation and Australia's continued participation in the occupation of Iraq. Similarly, the Howard government has continued to whip up anti-Muslim racism in order to maintain support for the mandatory detention and deportation of refugees.
The perpetuation of such racism by the media has become particularly apparent in recent days. Describing the march in Cronulla of 5,000 “locals” carrying Australian flags and chanting racist slogans, the Daily Telegraph published that what “may have begun as a show of pride” ended in alcohol-fuelled violence. It was at this demonstration that Muslim women had their headscarves torn off and a neo-Nazi group held placards bearing slogans including “Aussies fighting back”. Yet from talk-back radio to broadsheet newspapers, the events have been characterized as racial or mob violence where the fault is on both sides, obscuring the source of the racism.
In response to the blatantly racist media portrayal of an “army of Muslim youth” targeting “innocent residents”we need to be clear that the actions of young people of Middle Eastern background are primarily a response to ongoing racism and discrimination rather than the source of the so-called “racial conflict”. And in response to calls for increased policing of Muslim communities we need to be clear that it is such discriminatory over-policing and intimidation that is fuelling frustrations.
The vilification of the Muslim community by the government and the media has legitimised overt racism and created the space for racist demonstrations such as that seen in Cronulla on Sunday. This is made worse by the absence of a real opposition to the government's racist policies, epitomised by the Labor Party's support for the anti-terror laws, allowing them to be passed last week.
As previous experience has shown the most effective way to combat racism is by uniting the broadest forces in action. This was seen in the high school student walkouts against Pauline Hanson in 1998 and community protests against the attacks on Sudanese refugees in Newcastle earlier this year.
Resistance condemns the Howard government's incitement of anti-Muslim racism that has fuelled the events in Sydney. We call on the government to repeal all “anti-terror laws”, stop the scapegoating of Muslims and withdraw Australian troops from Iraq immediately. In the context of the Liberal government's recent attacks on workers and unions it is more important than ever to be united. We are committed to uniting with those being victimized and persecuted in the name of the “war and terror” and by the Howard government's racist policies.
RACE RIOTS NO SURPRISE!
Australian Arabic Council
The Australian Arabic Council (AAC) today voiced condemnation and alarm at the Race Riots in Sydney over the last 24 hours.
Speaking for the AAC, Chairman, Roland Jabbour said the riots while not a surprise, must be condemned by all.
“These events typify an ugly and fringe element of Australian society. However, the impact these riots will have on the Australian Arabic community in terms of heightening tensions and fears must be recognised.”
“Arab Australians have had to cope with vilification, racism, abuse and fear of a racial backlash for a number of years, but these riots will take that fear to a new level.”
“The AAC has for some time predicted the occurrence of events such as yesterdays. While we have a strong sense of equality and multiculturalism in Australia, people are mislead in thinking, we are immune to these types of ugly incidents.”
“Importantly, as we come to terms with this tension and its intimidating and divisive nature, some responsibility must be taken by political and media leaders.”
“For some time politicians and media commentators have been fanning the flames of racial tension and finger pointing. ‘Middle Eastern appearance’ despite years of campaigning by the AAC continues to be used by politicians and law enforcement agencies (especially in NSW). Fear and scaremongering have long been targeted towards the Arab and Muslim communities, as politicians fuelled by media sensationalism, justify support for draconian agendas and simplistic policies. The results speak for themselves!”
“If nobody expected this racist response to have finally shown its ugly face in Australia, they need to take a closer look at their actions and their own ability to gage the long-term impact of their behaviour and comments.”
“It is time Australian political leaders and media commentators, revaluate their commitment to Australian harmony, and show some leadership by unequivocally condemning the race riots and viewing their own role in public life with a bit more foresight.”
The Australian Arabic Council warns the media against the continueous use of racial and stereotyping slurs such as Lebanese gangs and its direct consequences.
For further comment or information contact: Deputy Chair, Taimor Hazou on 0439 635 163 or the AAC on 03 9381 0055 or 0413 219 141 - www.aac.org.au
Stop the attacks on the Muslim and Arab communities!
A case of state-sponsored racism
The Socialist Alliance
The events in Cronulla and their aftermath are chickens-come-home-to-roost for the racist Howard government, and all its partners in “Hansonism”.
The riots reflect the rising racism in Australia, a tide that has been fostered by the Howard government’s policies and propaganda that criminalise and lock up refugees, dehumanise and bomb the Iraqi people, and define all Muslims and Middle-Eastern Australians as potential terrorists.
So when the new terrorism bill is promulgated - aided and abetted so keenly by the Labor Party - is it so strange that on a NSW beach such racism explodes?
This country’s entrenched racism, historically focused on Aborigines and Asians, has been exploited once again, like a maggot which has been given fresh garbage. The prejudice on which Pauline Hanson relied has now jumped the generations - from the ex-diggers and grey-haired RSL loyalists, to the testosterone and beer-fuelled youths who are hurting in Howard’s Australia, in and out of work.
While this process has taken its time, it needed official state sponsorship, enshrined in such things as the new anti-terrorism legislation, to find a new core of activists.
And our prime minister, John Howard, wants to preach calm! Has anyone seen these guys? Should any ethnic community be calm when these thugs are whacked out of their heads, wielding baseball bats and launching bricks and flower pots!
And they wrap themselves up in the flag of the Australian state to justify themselves! Are these then, the “real Australians” of which the prime minister is so keen to eulogize?
In the face of this terror, communities are being asked to rely on the NSW police force for protection. But who would do such a thing?
The NSW Labor Party has worked overtime to divide the state along ethnic lines, with the determined complicity of the radio shock jocks and the print media. By engineering a brutal police regime in multi-ethnic communities at the same time as Muslims are being blamed for so much - from a genetic predisposition to pack rape to a war of terror – it’s no surprise that these riots occur in New South Wales given what the ALP government has dealt out these last few years.
Those young Lebanese-Australians were right when they gathered to protect their local mosque. They are right to demand an end to the racist scapegoating of their communities. And the trade union movement, anti-war activists and everyone outraged by racism must stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
Riots the ugly product of Howard’s racism
International Socialist Organisation
The racist riots at Cronulla, where thousands of mainly white people viciously attacked people of Lebanese or Muslim appearance, is the vile product of years of official government and media racism.
In the wake of this racist outbreak, Howard has even claimed there is no underlying
problem with racism in Australia. But his government has done more than anyone to
encourage racist sentiment over the best part of the past decade.
His government has consistently targeted people of Muslim and Arab background first
through the anti-refugee racism of the Tampa and now under the guise of the “war on
Howard’s racism is designed to divide ordinary people against each other. It is about
justifying Australia’s involvement in Bush’s Iraq war and pushing through neo-liberal
policies of privatisation and attacks on workplace rights at home.
Nor is Howard’s government solely to blame. In NSW, former Labor premier Bob Carr
went out of his way to target “Lebanese gangs” in Sydney’s western suburbs as part of his “law and order” campaign.
Media outlets, particularly the Murdoch press, have played a key role in spreading this racist poison whether against refugees, spurious terrorist threats or in “defending our beaches” despite the fact that those accused of being outsiders have been living in Sydney for generations.
Most of the people at the riots were mobilised by racism in the media, but the presence of far right racist groups is a dangerous sign that the official racism has allowed them a space to organise.
In the aftermath of the riots, calls have gone up for increased policing. But the real problem is the racism that caused the riots, not a lack of police.
Racism is one of the best tools governments have to divide ordinary people and attempt to distract attention from the real threats.
We need to oppose racism wherever it rears its ugly head. But we also need to build the movements that can offer a political alternative to the mass of people.
The hope lies with the huge union mobilisations against the Howard government’s assault on workers’ rights and the continuing majority opposition to the continuing war in Iraq.
The challenge is to extend the networks of activists, like the local anti-war groups and union networks into every suburb and workplace.
These can be the basis for a broader fight against Howard, and his system of neo-liberal capitalism and war which is the real threat to people’s lives.
The Rise of Islamophobia in ‘White Australia’
by Ghali Hassan
“A BARE-CHESTED youth in Quiksilver board shorts tore the headscarf off the girl's head as she slithered down the Cronulla dune seeking safety on the beach from a thousand-strong baying mob”. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 2005.
Islamophobia in Australia is not something suddenly appeared over the horizon because of the weather. To the contrary, racism against Muslims has always been part of Australia’s psyche. Whether it is against neighbouring Indonesia, Malaysia or Muslim Australians; the pall of racism is permanently hovering over Australia. Government policies, including the criminal war against Iraq and the introduction of the so-called “anti-terrorism” laws have legitimised racism against Arab and Muslim Australians.
The Runnymede Trust in Britain defined Islamophobia as: “The unfounded hostility towards Islam. It refers also to the practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities, and to the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs”. Islamophobia is anti-Semitism, which “has fed racist hostility against people of Middle Eastern, Arab and South Asian origin and has in turn been bolstered by racial prejudice and xenophobia”.
Islamophobia is encouraged by the Howard-Bush claims that they are engaged in a “war of civilizations” against Muslims. Islamophobia is growing rapidly in Australia in that it is now not uncommon to see white male Australians abusing Muslim women (wearing the Hijab or headscarf) in buses, on beaches and on the streets of Australia’s big cities. “Aussie” males are real machismos when it comes to women. It should be noted that insulting or harassing Muslim women wearing the hijab is not an offence in Australia, as this considered part of the Bush-Howard mission of “liberating” Muslim women.
Australia has no Bill of Rights and no federal Religious Freedom Act. Only Queensland and Victoria have recently extended the anti-discrimination laws to cover religious vilification, and this has strong opposition from the Christian parties. In all other Australian states racism is part of free speech, but criticising the Government complicity in war crimes in Iraq is not. Anti-Muslims hatred and racism are central to the Government policies in “multicultural” Australia.
Australia’s shallow “multiculturalism” produces ‘an ethnicised Muslim identity’ subjected to racism and discrimination in education, at work and in public. It consciously and deliberately enforces the “Others” feeling in the general community, and creates a mentality of superiority among ‘White Australians’. It requires subordination of those who are from ethnic minorities. Shallow “multiculturalism” is designed to marginalise ethnic groups and isolates them into ghettoised communities.
This form of institutionalise racism reinforces the disadvantage already experienced by members of the Muslim Community, and restrict their integration in the wider Australian community. At the same time, Anglo-Saxon values are presented as a unique paradigm applicable to the whole community, if not the world at large.
Australia projects self-image as a “tolerant”, “welcoming”, and “Fair Go” country. Anglo-Saxon Australians often hallucinate about their images and their “easygoing lifestyle”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Australians work much longer hours than any other member of the OECD countries and obesity among Australians is rising at unparalleled rates. Violent crimes and violence against women are among the highest in Western countries. Racism is widespread, but it is buried in shallow ground. “Deep down we have this fear of people who are different from us”, said Tasmanian Labor MP Harry Quick. Like the French, Australians are living in denial of deep-seated racism.
The country is ruled by an elitist Anglo-Saxon dominant class to which smaller ethnic groups have to conform. It systematically advantages the Anglo-Saxon class and marginalises (subordinates) the non-Anglo-Saxon ethnic groups, such as those from Muslim and Arab backgrounds. This creates a permanent under the surface racial mentality, which is often exploited by politicians, rightwing thugs and other groups within the Anglo-Saxon class. Australia’s “Fair Go” was meant only for white Anglo-Saxon Australians, with a dividing line between the dominant and the subordinate classes.
All over Australia the gap between ‘the have’ and the ‘have not’ is widening steadily, with well-documented racism against ethnic minorities, particularly against Muslims. The Anglo-Saxon rich are congregating around the beaches and in leafy suburbs, while the poor are pushed further into the poorer suburbs – where most of the about 300,000 Muslim Australians live – with little prospect of finding decent employment or education.
A recent study on racist attitudes conducted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2003 found one in eight Australians interviewed admitted they were prejudiced, particularly towards Muslim Australians. The study, conducted by a team led by geography senior lecturer Dr. Kevin Dunn, also found some Australians were living in denial of such prejudice though 80 per cent of those surveyed recognized racism was a problem. When asked if they ever met a Muslim. ‘NO’, they said.
A report, entitled ‘Respect and Racism in Australia’, prepared in June 2004 by Racism Monitor Group of the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS) reveals that; Australian Arabs Muslims community “has been and continues to be unfairly targeted” specifically, and that racism is so frequent that “it has become almost accepted” and Muslims do not feel 'entitled' to make complaints. Racism against Muslims is openly promoted, and continues to contribute to decrease in the process of integration. It is propagated by politicians as a tool to instil fear in the community and justify draconian policies.
As it has been predicted, the “Anti-terrorism Bill”, introduced here recently has encouraged, if not incited Islamophobia. The new laws enforced a pre-existing fear in the Muslim community. Muslims are made to feel alienated, and (as if they) do not truly belong in Australia. The Bill, as it is called, designed specifically to discriminate against Australians from Muslim and Arabic backgrounds. The recent violent attacks on members of Australia’s Muslim Community were just a few cases.
At least 5000 “White Australians” invaded the south eastern Sydney suburb of Cronulla’s foreshore and beachside streets on Sunday (11 December 2005) chasing two young Muslim Australians of Lebanese origin. Racist thugs and Neo-fascist opportunists attacked and assaulted individuals and small groups of Muslim Australians. The racially motivated violence, which has been boiling for sometimes is misleadingly portrayed in the media as “the local boys trying to protect their beach and community”. It is also alleged that the violence is in retaliation to a rumours that Muslim youths assaulted two lifeguards earlier this month.
The media – the most controlled in the Western world – not only play a crucial role in inciting and legitimising these criminal acts. They also ‘perpetuate historically inherited stereotypes and cultural imaginaries that form part of the national collective memory bank’. Anti-Muslims hatred is a best seller in Australia. TV, radio, the printing press and publishing houses are competing for the best available distortion of Islam and Muslims. In fact one can become a celebrity overnight in Australia, by simply producing a distorted image of Arabs and Muslims. It is a topic promoted as much as playing Cricket.
Media grunts led by the right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt of the Melbourne Herald Sun, Janet Albrechtsen of Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper, and Alan Jones of Sydney Radio 2GB and others are fuelling racism and influencing community’s attitudes. Indeed, Alan Jones is encouraging racially-motivated violence against Muslims on his popular redneck talk. Anti-Muslims hatred is rising because of media bashing of Muslims and Government policy of incarcerating of the mainly Muslim refugees. “Sections of the media took [the attack on Cronulla beach] far too far and one can only surmise that the way this issues was dealt with on talkback radio amounts to incitement”, said Mr. Keysar Trad, president of Islamic Friendship Association of Australia.
Many flawed reasons have been provided to justifying the violent attacks against Muslims and to cover up racism as central to the violence. The racially motivated attack in Cronulla “is revenge for the Bali bombings and the September 11 attacks”, declared Bruce Baird, a Federal Liberal backbencher in Canberra. It seems that the destruction of the Iraqi society and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi women, children and men by the Anglo-American armies is not a sufficient holocaust to satisfy Mr. Cook violent revenge. Whatever the reason was, “it shows that there is underlying racism running deeply in the Australian psyche”, said Huranda Seyit, director of the Forum on Australian-Islamic Relations.
It is remarkable that Muslims are the first to call on Muslim youth in the Community to “calm down, and refrain from any further violence”. Why shouldn’t "White Australians” do the same?
Opportunist politicians have been the only beneficiaries of violence and racism against Australians from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds. “This is a great day” for Australia, said John Moffitt, leader of the Australia First Party, a rightwing collection of thugs. Others want to go back to the old days of “White Australia Policy”. Defunct racist politicians such as John Stone of the National Party are attacking Islam, and advocating the banning of Muslim immigrants and abolishing “multiculturalism”.
Liberal MPs Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos have repeatedly attacked Islam, using Muslim women dresses as the pretext to incite Australians to stand up against the Muslim hijab in schools. The purpose of this old “colonial feminism” is not to defend Muslim women rights, but to promote racism, denying Muslim women education, and their rights to wear whatever suites them. What have these two MPs said about the abuses and torture of Iraqi women by the occupying forces and their leaders?
Instead of rejecting their views, the Government has encouraged this kind of racism, and allows Nazis-like groups such as the Australia First Party and the Patriotic Youth League to flourish.
Australian Muslim women were always the immediate targets of the racially-motivated violence. The daily Melbourne, The Age reported on November 13, 2005 that; “’Fatimah’ [a Muslim woman] was punched, kicked, spat on and abused, told to ‘go home to her own country and left with an injury to her right eye’. Her sister, she said, had a knife thrust towards’ her face”. The West Australian Sunday Times (13 November 2005) is labelling every Muslim a “terrorist”, and the victims are always, Australian women of Muslim backgrounds. ”I think families are staying home and avoiding going out, particularly women who wear the hijab, because we have seen that they are particularly targeted”, said Australian Arabic Council deputy chairman, Mr. Taimor Hazou.
Islamophobia is a serious threat to the Australian society. It is reminiscent to that of anti-Jews hatred in Europe in recent history. “Racism in Australia is rooted in every area of Australian society, from government to schools to courts to churches…. Racism is an endemic and chronic problem that must be addressed and solved”, writes the Australian author, Anne Pattel-Gray. “Racism is embedded in Australian culture and federal politicians should not ignore it”, added MP Harry Quick.
Sydney Police alleged to have evidence that Neo-Nazis and “white supremacist” groups, including right-wing politicians were among the crowd attacking Muslims at Cronulla beach. Meanwhile those who are promoting and selling racism are sitting and laughing in their party rooms, radio and TV stations, and editorial news rooms around Australia. In order for tolerance to establish its roots deep in society, the head of racism must be cut off and buried.
A tolerant non-racial society is an egalitarian society free of racial categories. “As Australia increasingly globalizes it must shed the ignorant roots of intolerance and embrace the multiplicity of nationalities already within its borders. If the North Cronulla riots are not incentive enough for change, then Australia risks a future plagued by disunity and disgruntled reaction to the faux ideals of egalitarianism”, writes Bede A. Moore, editor of The Harvard Crimson, a publication of Harvard University.
The racist “White Australia Policy” is not dead; it is still here hovering over Australia. What is needed is an anti-racism bill to protect marginalised Australians from the threat of racially-motivated violence, and to counter the rise of Islamophobia.
Brisbane: Speak-out against racism — Stop the scapegoating of Muslims
Friday December 16, 5pm
Steps of King George Square.
In recent days in Sydney suburbs there have been vicious attacks on anyone of Middle-Eastern appearance. This racism has been stoked by passing draconian anti-terror laws and scapegoating Muslim communities, the mainstream media has added fuel to this racist fire. Join us to show your opposition to racism and solidarity with communities under siege.
Speakout initiated by Resistance, socialist youth organisation.
For more info or to get involved or sponser contact Mel 0423 978 518 or (07) 3831 2644.
Sydney: United Against Racism rally
The National Union of Students is calling a rally to protest the recent race riots in Cronulla. The rally, to be called “United Against Racism”, will protest the racist violence in Cronulla last Sunday, and the ongoing racist acts that have followed from them. The rally details are:
WHEN: Sunday, 18th December 2005
WHERE: Town Hall Square (Sydney)
The National Union of Students Anti-Racism Officer Mr Osmond Chiu said: “Racism from some of the media and political leaders have whipped up fear and anger to lead to the disgraceful violence at Cronulla. This rally wants to show that people are fed up with this racist violence and that enough is enough.”
BRISBANE Sunday Protest
END THE RACISM
END THE VIOLENCE
SUPPORT SOCIAL HARMONY AND INCLUSION
SAY NO TO HOWARD'S AGENDA OF FEAR AND DIVISION
Gather King George Square (steps)
Sunday December 18th 2pm
Over the last few days we have experienced some of the worst racial violence seen in this country's history.
It is no accident that this outburst has occurred at the end of a period when some of the most destructive and divisive legislation ever seen in this country has been forced through parliament at breakneck speed.
Over the last ten years, the Howard regime has torn apart the social fabric here. Since they gained control of the senate in the middle of this year, this process has escalated to an appalling level, culminating in a landslide of destructive legislation over the last couple of weeks.
Howard has been able to do this by governing through fear and division. As many have commented, the mobs in southern Sydney this week have simply been acting out the precept which he used to grasp the 2001 election; "we will decide who comes to this country..."
The anti terrorism legislation has encapsulated and elevated this. Muslims have been targetted by the government and "police powers" have been increased to deal with these shadowy threats.
The ALP leadership in its capitulation to this process must share resonsibility for these appalling events. Morris Iemma played a key role in escalating this violence when he tried to profit politically out of the assault of two lifeguards on the previous weekend. He virtually granted license to people to behave like this. And he continues to escalate it by granting
further "police power", part of the dynamic which set it all in motion in the first place.
Ordinary people in this country must take a stand against this garbage and say no to racism, violence, increased police power and the broad Howard agenda once and for all. We must stand together and remember that it is our collective action which is the true power and authority on this country. We must stop what they have started.
We have the power to do this. Noone is going to save us; we have to do this for ourselves and for the generations of people to come. This country is at a critical point, and we are the only ones who can.
And Howard's appalling statement that violence is never acceptable made at the ASEAN meeting this morning, is the depth of hypocrisy from a government which has presided over the deaths of tens of thousands in Iraq in the name of oil and profits.
END THE VIOLENCE ONCE AND FOR ALL
KING GEORGE SQUARE 2PM SUNDAY
Stop the War Collective
Two gatherings are planned in Melbourne this Friday and Sunday in opposition to the racist attacks in Sydney. Be there!!
Friday 16th, 5pm Burke st Mall
Peace, Love, Unity rally Sunday 18th, 12pm, State Library.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
U.S. Funds Indigenous Persecution in Colombia
By Veronica Cassidy
From Resource Center of the Americas
While the U.S. funnels money to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to fight his country’s “War on Drugs,” Colombian paramilitaries closely associated with Uribe’s government are often forcing local farmers to plant coca—only to later invade their farms and villages to stop cocaine production.
Afro-Colombian peace activist Bernado Vivas made this and other claims at two Twin Cities speeches in early November, one at Macalester College and the other at the Resource Center of the Americas.
Originally scheduled to accompany Vivas was another Afro-Colombian activist, Orlando Valencia. However, Valencia was kidnapped by paramilitaries on October 15, after being denied a visa to visit the U.S. His body was discovered October 25.
At his Twin Cities speeches, Vivas spoke sadly yet with stubborn optimism about Colombia’s situation. He described the disastrous effects of the civil war in his country, and of the U.S.’s “Plan Colombia,” as well as the role that multinational corporations play in terrorizing Colombian society.
“Killed Like Rats”
Afro-Colombians, or Colombians of African descent, make up as much as a quarter of Colombia’s population and have one of the most active indigenous rights movements in the country. Afro-Colombians live mainly in the northwest, on land that is greatly desired by multinational corporations for agro-industrial development.
The precise number of Afro-Colombians is unknown as the national government plays down their numbers in an effort to further marginalize and disempower them, Vivas said.
“We are persecuted, killed like rats because we get in the way of investment,” he said.
Afro-Colombian and other indigenous groups have occupied buildings and farm estates throughout Colombia, as a part of protests to demand the return of their land. The connection between the Afro-Colombian community and the land is strong. “We love the land, respect it, and conserve it,” Vivas said.
But the Afro-Columbia movement goes beyond a struggle for land, he added, as a struggle for general peace and justice. The Afro-Colombian movement opposes the civil war; the policies of President Uribe’s government; the imposition of development projects; the U.S.’s “Plan Colombia” and “War on Drugs,” and the neoliberal agenda, Vivas said.
Twenty-three Afro-Colombian communities in the northwestern Choco region had a total of 123,000 hectares of land (about 393,940 acres) seized by the government in 1997, displacing 7,800 people, to make room for the planting of African palm, the source of highly exported palm oil.
The land is taken through corruption and false documents, Vivas said. They have tried to recover it through the judicial system, but leaders are terrorized so they will not continue to make their claims. A year after Vivas’s community’s land was partially returned, they were surrounded by armed forces who claimed guerrilla settlements were located in the area.
The Afro-Colombian movement is just one of many struggles across Latin America that are threatening to undermine U.S. domination of the continent that arguably began in 1846, at the start of the Mexican-American War.
Manifest Destiny was the U.S. foreign policy of the day in 1846. Today’s “neoliberal” philosophy has many echoes of Manifest Destiny, but the consequences of neoliberalism are potentially far more damaging.
Colombia is a case in point. Even mainstream U.S. media sources now describe Colombia as ravaged not only by civil war between the government and state-associated paramilitaries and Marxist guerrilla forces, but by a “War on Drugs” waged by the U.S. under the guise of Plan Colombia.
In addition, Vivas described an ecocide in Colombia that is being caused by U.S.-trained soldiers who use planes, bought with U.S. money, to spray pesticides over areas where coca is believed to be grown. The real result of these operations, Vivas said, is not the elimination of cocaine, but the injury and death of thousands of innocent Colombian farmers and villagers.
Vivas highlighted his argument with moving photos of some of those who have been murdered during these campaigns. He pointed out the hypocrisy of the “War on Drugs” by referring to well-known ties between President Uribe and drug traffickers. The paramilitaries, he said, who are supposedly fighting this “War on Drugs,” actually receive money from the drug trade.
Vivas pointed out the illegitimacy of this war, as indigenous Colombians have been growing coca for thousands of years. Chewing coca leaf is a traditional custom that serves as a source of nourishment and energy. Additionally, coca is not the only ingredient of cocaine. Yet, Vivas joked darkly, there have been no bombing of companies like Monsanto, which produce the other ingredients. Not that they should be bombed, he quickly added.
The “War on Drugs” is less a moral crusade against the criminal drug trade, and more a means of getting what is wanted by multinational corporations trying to get their way in agro-industrial projects in Colombia, Vivas argued.
Throughout the country, suspicion of coca cultivation is used as an excuse for seizing land which is then used for “development projects.”
USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development, helps fund these projects, Vivas said.
“The problem in Colombia is not guerrillas or drug traffickers, it’s the imposition of development,” he said. “Guerrillas kill and displace, yes. We don’t share their view, but we are most concerned with state power that is there only to back up capitalist power.”
A Pretty Word
Because of his efforts to have his community’s land returned after government seizure, his demands for peace, and his refusal to align with the paramilitaries or guerrillas, Vivas has been the target of violence from state and rebel forces.
The Zapatistas in Mexico, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, the Recovered Enterprises and Cooperatives and Unemployed Workers’ Movements in Argentina, and indigenous movements in Ecuador and Bolivia – all are among many similar movements sweeping the region in revolt against the domination of local societies and economies under the neoliberal rationale.
“It’s a pretty word, democracy,” Vivas said. “In Colombia it means safety for foreign investment.”
This is the perception in much of Latin America, and the desire for true, direct democracy, which incorporates traditionally marginalized groups, is at the heart of these movements.
The many indigenous movements are now communicating and often working with each in a way that is sure to redefine the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America; between their societies and their governments; and perhaps even the very notions of statehood and capitalism.
Vivas asked U.S. citizens to stand with the Afro-Colombians and other such movements across the region by educating themselves and others, and using their political influence to shape national policy.
“Call your Congressmen and Senators and follow up on the aid you’re giving,” he said. “Because [that aid] is increasing the number of displaced peoples and orphans.”
[Veronica Cassidy is a volunteer at the Resource Center of the Ameicas and a participant in the citizen journalism project. With reporting help from Mary Turck, Communications Director of the Resource Center of the Americas.]
A terrorist plot during the legislative elections is the tip of the iceberg of a brutal plan seeking to ignite violence in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said.
Chavez disclosed information gathered by agents infiltrated in extreme rightwing groups, confirming that civilian conspirators, army members and "even people of the Church" and US officials are still holding secretive meetings.
In a phone call to Venezuelan Television "Contragolpe" (counterpunch) program, the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution stated that ex business leader and de facto president during the 2002 coup, Pedro Carmona, also participated in those gatherings.
He said evidence of conspiracy before the December 4 elections forced him to deploy Air Force troops and put military helicopters on alert during those days.
"They will not catch me off guard as on April 22, 2002," pointed out Chavez in reference to the coup that lasted three days.
Chávez said he has handed his Colombian counterpart Álvaro Uribe documents about meetings held in Bogotá to "plot" against Caracas.
"We know that there are people who travel to Bogotá for plotting, including coupster retired military officers and some Church members," Chávez told official TV station Venezolana de Television in a phone interview.
Chávez said he produced such evidence during his last meeting with Uribe -held in Venezuela on November 24th.
Venezuelan businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga, leader of a failed coup d'etat in April 2002 and currently exiled in Colombia, is in the center of such meetings in Bogotá, EFE reported.
Chavez revealed that exiled April 2002 coup leader, Venezuelan businessman Pedro Carmona Estanga has been clearly pinpointed at the center of an anti-government plot ... "we know there is a group of people who travel to Bogotá to attend those meetings, several former military officers and members of the Venezuelan Roman Catholic Church hierarchy."
Chavez wasn’t the only one speaking out.
National Assembly president Nicolás Maduro and parliamentarian Cilia Flores, both members of ruling party MVR, Tuesday filed new evidence of a plan intended to "isolate" and "destabilize" Venezuela, and directly accused a US congresswoman of involvement in said plot.
Flores disclosed a recording of an alleged conversation between two Venezuelan women, Patricia Andrade and Tamara Suju, tuning up details to report false human right violations in Venezuela after December 4th parliament polls. According to Flores, Andrade and Suju had support from US Congress representative Ileana Ross Letinen.
Flores added that they planned to offer a news conference "to demonstrate -based on all the maneuvers of Ms Patricia Andrade-" that "Venezuela has incurred in human rights violations."
"For such purposes, this Ms Patricia Andrade has an alliance or a combination with a Cuban-US congresswoman Ileana Ross, who is widely known because she allegedly works with all the cases of human rights violations. And she is now setting this trap against Venezuela. They planned to show, in the days after December 4, that Venezuela is involved in human rights violations," Flores added.
She insisted that "the US Embassy, President George W. Bush' administration, CIA, and stateless Venezuelans" are involved in this plan and are "plotting to destroy not only democracy but also the peace of Venezuelans."
Flores said Andrade, who has lived in US over the last 10 years, "is an undercover agent with CIA. She has direct contact with destabilizing and terrorist sectors in Venezuela, those who participated in April 11 coup, and who conceived a plan (to prevent) December 4th (parliament polls), as we had previously reported."
Flores said Tamara Suju, a niece of retired general Oswaldo Suju Rafu, is a friend of general Felipe Rodríguez, known as the raven, who has been accused in connection with murder and explosive attacks. Sources: Prensa Latina, Vheadlines, El Universal, EFE