Judi LynnJudi Lynn's Journal
US Continues Ransoming Development Aid, Now Using CAFTA to Threaten Social Programs
Written by CISPES
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 22:46
The USs ransoming of development aid has entered a new phase in El Salvador. Not content with the passage of the controversial Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law, nor with its modification by way of various reforms, the US government has now unleashed a new series of conditions it claims necessary for the disbursement of nearly $300 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development funding. This time, its the groundbreaking social programs and reforms initiated by the nations first progressive government in the crosshairs.
On Tuesday, April 8, John Barrett, economic advisor at the US Embassy in San Salvador, revealed concerns the US Trade Representative has about El Salvadors compliance with the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), referring specifically to the FMLN-Funes administrations family farming program, which provides domestic, non-genetically modified (GMO) seeds to small scale farmers to promote local production and food sovereignty. In fact, the US governments concerns go beyond just subsidized sustainable agriculture. The US Trade Representatives 2014 report on El Salvador also includes anxieties about the National Healthcare Reforms measure to allow the Ministry of Health to purchase pharmaceuticals without an open bidding process (allowing them to buy cheaper medicines from Venezuela and Cuba) and the 2012 Medications Law, which regulates El Salvadors notoriously extortionate medicine prices. In effect, the US government is holding the MCC funds hostage in order to advocate for the interests of Monsanto and Big Pharma at the expense of the vast majority of the Salvadoran people.
El Salvador has already met the conditions established by the MCC board required to qualify for the funding. Nevertheless, the US continues to surprise the country with ever-more conditions. The USs unending demands on El Salvadors policy makers exposes the MCC funds as a mere mechanism for the imposition of US commercial interests. With a new FMLN administration poised to assume power on June 1st, the United States appears intent on undermining further attempts to build sustainable, equitable, alternative development initiatives and rolling back existing ones. The invocation of CAFTA against the pioneering actions of the countrys first FMLN government lays bare a struggle between two opposing models of governance, one that protects the interests of a small, corporate elite, and one that serves the popular majority.
Agrarian Uprising Against Free Trade and 'Government Lies' Sweeps Colombia
By Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams
Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014
Second agrarian uprising in less than a year met with tanks, soldiers, and riot police
Agrarian strikes, protests, and road blockades are sweeping Colombia this week as peasants voice outrage at the "free trade" policies, backed by the Colombian government, that they say are exacerbating the country's crisis of rural poverty.
"The countryside has been abandoned by the state in favor of big companies," Jimmy Torres of Conciencia Campesina in Cajamarca told The Guardian. "That's why we block the roads and protest."
The second major mobilization of its kind in less than a year, the strike launched Monday and has so far been met with government tanks, troops, and riot police, The Guardian reports. Human rights organizations estimate that 200 participants have been "illegally arrested," Neil Martin of the Colombia-based labor solidarity organization Paso International told Common Dreams.
The strikes and protests are organized by dignity movements for potato, rice, and coffee growers and other rural workers, said Martin. Peasants have levied a range of demands for greater social protections and relief from debt, mining projects, and "free trade" agreements that have bankrupted and displaced Colombia's peasants, workers, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities.
The "U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement," passed by U.S. Congress in 2011, slashed tariffs on U.S. exports to the country while prohibiting protections for Colombian farmers, forcing peasants and farmers to compete with an influx of subsidized U.S. products.
Source: Associated Press
Apr 30, 12:51 PM EDT
USAID contractors profiled Cuban 'Twitter' users
By DESMOND BUTLER and ALBERTO ARCE
Paula Cambronero was studying public relations at a Costa Rican college when she landed her first real job working for a U.S. government contractor. But it wasn't to write press releases.
As part of a program shrouded in secrecy to build a "Cuban Twitter" on the Communist-governed island, Cambronero profiled Cuban cellphone users, categorizing them as "pro-revolution," "apolitical" or "anti-revolutionary."
The social media network, paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development, sought to undermine the Cuban government through cellphone text messaging to get around the island's Internet restrictions, The Associated Press detailed in an investigation published in early April.
The plan for the bare-bones service, known as ZunZuneo, was to build a subscriber base slowly through innocuous news messages, then when it reached a critical mass of users, introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize "smart mobs" to "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society," according to documents obtained by the AP.
Read more: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/L/LT_CUBAN_TWITTER_POLITICAL_PROFILING?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2014-04-30-12-13-30
Fight Against Monsanto Enters the Courtroom
Escrito por Alfredo Acedo | 28 / April / 2014
The fight against genetically modified corn in Mexico began in the communities, leaped to the streets, spread to the printed page and now is being carried on in the courtroom. It is an uneven dispute in which the federal government has sided with the transnational corporation and against the majority of Mexican farmers and consumers. But in the latest battle the public good gained ground, under a strategy that combines effective mobilization with informational campaigns and legal cases.
The debate over GM corn isnt an argument between fanatical followers and stubborn opponents, but rather a war of interests in which one side seeking maximum profits plays outside the rules. They hide information, smear researchers, activists and judges, take action to discredit serious studies and resort to misinformation. The other side, comprised of peasant farmers and consumers, has taken up the task of defending traditional knowledge, campesino autonomy, access to decent work and sustainable agriculture.
Recently, the Union of Concerned Scientists has been the most active in the defense of Mexican corn, although the GM invasion isnt a scientific problem in essence. According to researcher Elena Álvarez-Buylla there is no longer a scientific debate given the obsolescence of the gene paradigm that posits that a gene behaves the same in a foreign organism as it does in its original organism. This has been promoted by genetic engineering at the service of the transnational corporations. It is a model that has failed to hold up although the corporations continue to use the label of science to justify it.
Álvarez-Buylla and Alma Piñeyro edited a recent book on the dangers to Mexican corn from genetically modified organisms. The book brings together nearly 50 specialists in more than 500 pages. It concludes that if Mexico authorizes the commercial cultivation of Monsantos GM corn genetic alterations will accumulate in native maize varieties, eroding the farm economy with negative effects on biodiversity and human health. In the preface, Jose Sarukhan, former dean of the national university (UNAM) and director of the National Commission for the Understanding and Use of Biodiversity, cites a landmark study by his commission in 2011 to state that practically all national land is a center of origin and genetic diversity of corn, with some 60 native landraces and thousands of varieties across the country.
What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream?
By Noam Chomsky
April 23, 2014
Part of the reason why I write about the media is because I am interested in the whole intellectual culture and the part of it that is easiest to study is the media. It comes out every day. You can do a systematic investigation. You can compare yesterdays version to todays version. There is a lot of evidence about whats played up and what isnt and the way things are structured.
My impression is the media arent very different from scholarship or from, say, journals of intellectual opinionthere are some extra constraintsbut its not radically different. They interact, which is why people go up and back quite easily among them.
You look at the media, or at any institution you want to understand. You ask questions about its internal institutional structure. You want to know something about their setting in the broader society. How do they relate to other systems of power and authority? If youre lucky, there is an internal record from leading people in the information system which tells you what they are up to (it is sort of a doctrinal system). That doesnt mean the public relations handouts, but what they say to each other about what they are up to. There is quite a lot of interesting documentation.
Those are three major sources of information about the nature of the media. You want to study them the way, say, a scientist would study some complex molecule or something. You take a look at the structure and then make some hypothesis based on the structure as to what the media product is likely to look like. Then you investigate the media product and see how well it conforms to the hypotheses. Virtually all work in media analysis is this last parttrying to study carefully just what the media product is and whether it conforms to obvious assumptions about the nature and structure of the media.
Venezuela: Where the Wealthy Stir Violence While the Poor Build a New Society
By Dario Azzellini, Creative Time Reports
Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014
Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuela in 1999, the barrios of Caracas, built provisionally on the hills surrounding the capital, did not even appear on the city map. Officially they did not exist, so neither the city nor the state maintained their infrastructure. The poor inhabitants of these neighborhoods obtained water and electricity by tapping pipes and cables themselves. They lacked access to services such as garbage collection, health care and education altogether.
Today residents of the same barrios are organizing their communities through directly democratic assemblies known as communal councils of which Venezuela has more than 40,000. Working families have come together to found community spaces and cooperative companies, coordinate social programs and renovate neighborhood houses, grounding their actions in principles of solidarity and collectivity. And their organizing has found government support, especially with the Law of Communal Councils, passed by Chávez in 2006, which has led to the formation of communes that can develop social projects on a larger scale and over the long term.
You will not hear about the self-governing barrios in Western reports of protests spreading across Venezuela. According to the prevailing narrative, students throughout the country are protesting a dire economic situation and high crime rate, only to meet brutal repression from government forces. Yet the street violence that has captured the worlds attention has largely taken place in a few isolated areas the affluent neighborhoods of cities like Caracas, Maracaibo, Valencia, San Cristóbal and Mérida and not in the barrios where Venezuelas poor and working classes live. Despite international media claims, the vast majority of Venezuelas students are not protesting. Not even a third of all people arrested in connection with the demonstrations since early February are students, even though Venezuela has more than 2.6 million university students (up from roughly 700,00 in 1998), thanks to the tuition-free public university system that Chávez created.
A look at recent arrests reveals that the protest leaders are really a mixture of drug traffickers, paramilitaries and private military contractors in other words, the mercenaries typical of any CIA military destabilization operation. In Barinas, the southern border state with Colombia, two heavily armed barricade organizers were arrested, including Hugo Alberto Nuncira Soto, who has an Interpol arrest warrant for membership in Los Urabeños, a Colombian paramilitary involved in drug trafficking, smuggling, assassinations and massacres. In Caracas, the brothers Richard and Chamel Akl who own a private military company, Akl Elite Corporation, and represent the Venezuelan branch of the private military contractor Risk Inc. were arrested while driving an armored vehicle in possession of firearms, explosives and military equipment. Their car had been equipped with pipes to be activated from inside to disperse motor oil and nails on the streets, not to mention tear gas grenades, homemade bombs, pistols, gas masks, bulletproof vests, night-vision devices, gasoline tanks and knives.
Uribe wants party closely tied to criminal activity to endorse presidential candidate
Apr 29, 2014 posted by Alexandra Jolly
Colombias former president, Senator-elect Alvaro Uribe, met with one of Colombias most controversial political parties over the weekend to seek support for his partys presidential candidate, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. The meeting and possible alliance between Uribe and Zuluagas Democratic Center (Centro Democratico CD) and representatives of the Citizens Options (Opcion Ciudadana OC) is controversial because of the OC leaders ties to criminal politicians and suspected voter fraud in Colombias latest congressional election, those held in March of this year.
Why the controversy?
Citizens Option was originally called Citizens Convergence (Convergencia Ciudadana), a party in the governing coalition of Uribe (2002-2010). Following the arrest of the majority of its political leaders over the help they had received from death squads to get elected int0 Congress, the party was renamed the National Integration Party (Partido de Integracion Nacional PIN). The imprisoned Congressmen were replaced by family members or close political allies and received a surprising 8.4% of the votes in the 2010 Congressional election.
The PIN changed its name in 2013 and became the OC, which got three senate seats in the March elections mostly from the northern Sucre department where electoral observers witnessed a 45% higher turnout than Colombias national average. According to the MOE, an electoral watchdog, a higher than average voter turnout tends to indicate voter fraud through vote-buying had taken place.
Uribe and the paramilitaries
During Uribes presidency from 2002-2010, ties were found between the AUC and members of the Uribe government when computers were seized in 2006 showing that paramilitaries had signed pacts with politicians. The computer of AUC commander Jorge 40? provided the physical evidence corroborating claims by then-opposition senator Gustavo Petro and AUC commander-in-chief Salvatore Mancuso that Congress had been infiltrated by paramilitary frontmen.
Indigenous anti-dam activist in Peru wins top U.S. environmental prize
LIMA Mon Apr 28, 2014 11:10am EDT
(Reuters) - An indigenous activist whose lawsuits helped derail plans to dam Peruvian rivers to supply electricity to Brazil has won a top environmental award in the United States, prize organizers said on Monday.
Ruth Buendia, a 37-year-old leader of the Ashaninka people in the Peru's central Amazon, will collect the Goldman Environmental Prize and $175,000 on Monday evening in San Francisco with six other recipients from different countries.
Buendias winning highlights one of several efforts around the world to halt mega dams proposed in emerging countries where surging demand for electricity outpaces supply.
Buendia said the Paquitzapango hydroelectric project - one of five dams envisioned churning out up to 7,200 megawatts in a pact between Brazil and Peru - would have flooded her people's traditional land, displacing between 8,000 and 10,000 people.
Sugar war between Mexico, U.S. threatens broader trade relations
Source: McClatchy News
Sugar war between Mexico, U.S. threatens broader trade relations
By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Foreign Staff
April 28, 2014 Updated 5 hours ago
MEXICO CITY Theres nothing sweet in the sugar war thats unfolding between Mexico and the United States.
The U.S. industry, sometimes called Big Sugar, simmers over soaring competition from Mexico and argues that a doubling of Mexican exports triggered a collapse in the market price of sugar.
A reluctant Obama administration has opened a formal investigation into those exports that could result in new import duties on Mexican sugar _ and ignite a broader trade dispute over sweeteners that might affect other U.S. industries.
A spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance, Phillip Hayes, said the sugar industry faces losses of up to $1 billion this year because of what it alleges is dumping _ selling at prices lower than what it costs to produce _ by Mexican sugar producers.
Defeating Fascism before its too Late
By James Petras. Axis of Logic
Sunday, Mar 23, 2014
Fascism in Venezuela: A Mortal Threat Today
The martyred hero, Captain Guillen Araques warning of an imminent fascist danger in Venezuela has a powerful substantive basis. While the overt terrorist violence ebbs and flows, the underlying structural basis of fascism in the economy and society remains intact. The subterranean organizations, financing and organizing the flow of arms to fascists-in-waiting remain in place.
The political leaders of the opposition are playing a duplicitous game, constantly moving from legal forms of protest to sub-rosa complicity with the armed terrorists. There is no doubt that in any fascist putsch, the political oligarchs will emerge as the real rulers and will share power with the leaders of the fascist organizations. In the meantime, their respectability provides political cover; their human rights campaigns to free incarcerated street thugs and arsonists earn international media support while serving as intermediaries between the open US funding agencies, and the clandestine terrorist underground.
In measuring the scope and depth of the fascist danger, it is a mistake to simply count the number of bombers, arsonists and snipers, without including the logistical, back-up and peripheral support groups and institutional backers who sustain the overt actors.
To defeat fascism before it is too late, the government must realistically assess the resources, organization and operational code of the fascist command and reject the overly sanguine and upbeat pronouncements emanating from some ministers, advisers and legislators.
First, the fascists are not simply a small band confined to pounding on pots and attacking municipal workers in the upper-middle class neighborhoods of Caracas for the benefit of the international and corporate media. The fascists are organized on a national basis; their members are active throughout the country.
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