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January 1, 2011

Photos du Soir: Seen at Dilma Rousseff's inauguration

Brazil's first female president was sworn in today, but the most interesting photos of the day weren't of Dilma. They were of Hillary Clinton, hesitating over a handshake with you-know-who:

hillary-chavecito-handshake.jpg

Doesn't it look like Juan Manuel Santos (president of Colombia) and Sebastián Piñera (of Chile) are about to say something? Like, "Don't worry, you won't catch commie cooties"?

But wait...wait...

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Aha! Grip 'n' grin accomplished. See, Hill? That wasn't so hard after all!

November 24, 2010

Finally, signs of intelligent life at the Christian Science Monitor

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Well, its Latin America desk, at any rate.

One in 10 South Americans - about 38 million people - escaped poverty during the past decade. That's remarkable progress by any measure.

Contrast that with the United States, where poverty has been growing due to a decade-long stagnation of income for the middle class and the Great Recession. In 2009, the US had more poor people than in any of the 51 years since poverty levels have been estimated.

Of course, America's poor are far better off than South America's poor. And the US still has a much lower poverty rate (14.2 percent versus around 70 percent). South America remains infamous for huge income gaps between a tiny elite and masses of people making, often, just $1 or $2 a day.

Still, 10 years of growing prosperity has shrunk that gap. The credit goes to democratic leftist governments that have vastly boosted social spending to help the poor, maintains Mark Weisbrot, a left-of-center economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Half of that improvement comes from Brazil. Under outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the nation pushed up the minimum wage a real 65 percent in eight years, helping to raise the wages of tens of millions of workers, including many receiving more than minimum wage. A program offered small cash grants to poor families if they sent their children to school.

The results? Real income per person is up some 24 percent since 2000. Illiteracy is down. Poverty has been halved since 2002; extreme poverty is down by 70 percent, says Mr. Weisbrot, pulling more than 19 million people into the middle class.

And the economy hasn't suffered. Unemployment under Mr. da Silva's presidency dropped from more than 11 percent to 6.7 percent. Income inequality has fallen considerably.

Okay, couple of quibblettes here: Brazil gets the lion's share of the positive mention. I'm guessing that's due to its enormous population, of which so many are poor (or extremely poor) that it was too glaringly obvious to ignore just how bad they had it before Lula and his rather modest reforms came along. Plus, under the neo-con code of US journalism on Latin America, cuddly little Ewok-y Lula counts as "good left" because he's not too radical or too critical of Washington, the World Bank, and the IMF. Not like, say, a certain big handsome Venezuelan whom Mark Weisbrot likes to mention quite a bit:

Other nations with "progressive" governments have made much social progress, notes Weisbrot. He lists Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela. Under President Hugo Chávez, attacked by the right in the US, oil-rich Venezuela has tripled social spending per person since 2003. Attendance at universities has doubled. Most of the poor now get health care under a government program.

Okay, here comes another quibblette: Why the unnecessary quotation marks around the word progressive? The governments of all those countries surely deserve better than that disparaging little trick of punctuation, since all have made impressive socio-economic recoveries under their progressive leaders. Much better, since they are all much improved.

Still, I shouldn't complain too loudly; after all, the piece doesn't then go on to undercut all that talk of progressives and their progresses with vague, unsubstantiated noises about "tyranny", the way so many other English-language whore media pieces (including previous ones in the selfsame Monitor) have done. Instead, we get...more relatively decent reporting:

The continent weathered the financial crisis relatively well. Social spending rose. So there was no big rise in poverty, says Norbert Schady, an economic adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank, speaking from Quito, Ecuador.

Moreover, prospects for continued economic progress are strong. The Institute of International Finance (IIF), set up by the world's biggest banks, forecasts 6 percent growth in gross domestic product in Latin America this year, which includes Mex­ico and Central America as well as South Am­er­ica. That growth should shrink poverty further.

By contrast, the IIF forecasts a 2.5 percent growth rate this year for the US. At that slow pace the US could see a further rise in poverty.

South America's new economic vigor is also causing a geopolitical shift. The US has long considered Latin America part of its political and economic sphere of influence. Officials running South America's left-of-center governments often charge the US with imperial ambitions.

But as US growth slows, South America's businesses have reached out to other markets. While 15 percent of South America's trade is still with the US, a greater share is tied to Europe. Also, trade within the continent is growing with a free-trade deal. So South American governments no longer feel so much under the thumb of the US.

All of this is unquestionably true, and it's refreshing to see it in the Monitor for a change. Normally I'd have to go to a progressive alternative or independent media site, like the Socialist Worker, or end up translating something from a LatAm indymedia site here. I have to say it's pleasantly surprising...

Oh wait, I just noticed something: The byline is David R. Francis. Perhaps the honest, even and objective tone of this piece owes to the fact that it wasn't written by the famously blinkered Sara Miller Llana? I bet it does.

Congratulations, Mr. Francis, on your journalistic breakthrough. And oh yeah: Watch your back. They don't like to see too many nice things being said about Chavecito, Evo, Cristina or El Ecuadorable in there.

November 19, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Couldn't have happened to a nicer Ewok

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Oh my...looks like somebody won something:

The Indira Gandhi Peace Prize for 2010 was awarded today to the president of Brazil, Luiz Lula da Silva, by way of a decision by an international jury led by the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

The prime minister, who leaves office on December 31, says the jury chose Lula because he worked "for the reinforcement of relations between developing nations, and particularly for his important support for co-operation" between India and Brazil.

Created in 1986, the Indira Gandhi prize for peace, disarmament and development has been previously awarded to Mikhail Gorbachev (1987), Vaclav Havel (1993), Jimmy Carter (1997) and Mohamed El-Baradei (2008).

Brazil and India are members of the "BRIC" group of nations, along with Russia and China.

Translation mine.

Congratulations to my favorite Ewok.

November 1, 2010

Dilma is full of win

Now that Brazil has made history, electing its first female (and first female leftist ex-guerrilla) president, here's Carlos Latuff, Brazilian cartoonist, with the "official portrait":

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And now that one ass-kicking is done, let the next commence. Here's a round-up of all things Dilma on the day after "DilmaDay":

The WSJ mutes the historic significance of Dilma, and instead strikes the usual unnecessary note of neoliberal caution about how social spending went up under Lula (hinting, stupidly, that it has to be reined in and cut back now). Duh: that increased spending the reason Brazil weathered the recession so much better than the "civilized" countries of the north. If you don't expect poor people to live on air, they actually help fuel the economic engine, dumbasses. Or did you think poor brown folks are just all useless eaters?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek seems to have been bitten by the same bug, only they're saying it's the Brazilian currency unit, the real, that needs to be "curbed" (stomped?) under Dilma. Translation: Make yourselves cheaper for us northern imperialists, can'tcha?

But here's the funny thing: The same Bloomie article draws that spin based on the words of a local CEPAL analyst. Whose real emphasis, it should be noted, was not on the "inflated" real, but on wealth redistribution, otherwise known as taxing the rich and social spending for the rest--a broadly beneficial concept surely foreign to the money marketeers except, of course, as an example of the socialism they want us all to abandon. Buried close to the bottom: a prediction that Brazil's economy will grow 8%, surpassing CEPAL's earlier estimate. I'm sorry, Dilma needs to "curb" WHAT, again?

And here's something interesting: the stodgy Torygraph rather blandly mentions Dilma's guerrilla past, and also that she was jailed for it and subjected to electroshock torture. If you've seen State of Siege, you'll probably be gasping with recognition here; the electroshock torture method was imported to Brazil, and taught to its police, by none other than Dan Mitrione (who is thinly fictionalized in the Costa-Gavras film as "Philip Michael Santore"). Mitrione later went on to inflict the same upon Brazil's little southerly neighbor, Uruguay. So now, not only does Uruguay have a president who was once jailed and tortured for his leftist guerrilla work by Mitrione's pupils, but so does Brazil! This should be interesting when she and Pepe Mujica get to talking. Can't wait to hear about THAT conversation! But of course, I won't expect to hear much from the Torygraph, which prefers to compare her to their senile homegrown villainess, Maggie Thatcher. Oh yeah, real basis for comparison there--Dilma was and probably still is opposed to everything Maggie the Milk Snatcher was about, and vice versa. Torygraph FAIL! Pepe Mujica is a much more natural one to compare Dilma to, and for that, I'll be reading the Spanish-language alternative news from down thereabouts.

As usual, the anglo crapaganda whores are missing the real story and focusing mainly on the bullshit. But you and I knew that already, eh?

September 26, 2010

Music for a Sunday: One for all the guerrillas, past and present

This patriotic hymn was first associated with Fidel and Che's victory in Cuba, but it's since become incredibly popular with freedom-fighters all over Latin America. And no wonder. It's a stirring one, isn't it?

Guerrillas have been in the news a lot this week--from the much-trumpeted death of the FARC's "Mono Jojoy" in Colombia, to the impending victory of Lula's comrade, the kick-ass Dilma Rousseff, who's about to become president of Brazil.

This song also figured on a recent campaign-trail edition of La Hojilla, as Venezuelans go to the polls today to keep the escuálidos from advancing. So I thought this would be only fitting to play for you today.

Guerrillero, guerrillero, adelante...

August 6, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Lula and Kirchner come to Chavecito; Piñera comes to Quito

Nope, Chavecito's not coming to the inauguration of that peasant-killing thug Santos in Colombia. He's got bigger fish to fry, and two of them were in Venezuela today:

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And there they are, right behind him. Néstor Kirchner, former president of Argentina, and Lula, outgoing president of Brazil, attended a summit today at the Yellow House in Caracas. The theme: south-south integration, as South America and Africa forge closer political and economic ties. Other topics on the table: Colombia and the shit it's been pulling with Venezuela of late. Because if there's one fly in the ointment of integration, it's bound to be Colombia...

Here's another nice shot of the friendly trio:

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And here's a third, just for good measure (and because I couldn't resist the jollity):

chavecito-kirchner-lula-jolly.jpg

And that's not all the meetin' and greetin' going on. The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, was in Quito, Ecuador today, meeting with his local counterpart, Rafael Correa:

pinera-correa.jpg

This photo is just begging for a caption. Anyone care to have at it?

August 5, 2010

I love you, Lula!

That is all.

July 22, 2010

Dear Iggy: This is why I will NEVER vote for you.

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This landed in my inbox yesterday. See if you can tell me what's wrong with it:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns about the human rights implications of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

Human rights are at the core of Liberal values. This is why we have taken the unprecedented step of negotiating an amendment compelling each country to monitor and publicly report on how this Free Trade Agreement (FTA) impacts human rights in both Canada and Colombia.

This is the first such human rights reporting requirement for any FTA in history. It imposes a new requirement on Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to focus on, collect and analyze information on the impact of the Canada-Colombia FTA on human rights in both Canada and Colombia. This information must be provided to the Parliament of Canada in an annual report which can then be used to guide Canada's foreign policy with respect to Colombia. In addition, the public tabling of the annual reports in Parliament will allow for greater scrutiny by opposition parties and provide a transparent way for civil society organizations from around the world to access this data as they conduct their own human rights impact assessments.

The Liberal amendment for a human rights reporting requirement was motivated by a desire for greater public oversight in the area of human rights and a belief that human rights are deeply intertwined with economic opportunity. We recognize that human rights abuses in Colombia have largely resulted from violence fuelled by Colombia's illegal narco-economy, which, in turn, has been perpetuated by Colombia's endemic poverty, persistently high unemployment and insufficient social infrastructure. We believe that increased political and economic engagement can help address the root causes of violence and improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

In recent years Colombia has made significant progress in combating human rights abuses.

On June 29, 2009, U.S. President Obama commented on these advancements: "I commended President Uribe on the progress that has been made in human rights in Colombia and dealing with the killings of labor leaders there, and obviously we've seen a downward trajectory in the deaths of labor unions and we've seen improvements when it comes to prosecution of those who are carrying out these blatant human rights offenses. President Uribe acknowledges that there remains more work to be done, and we look forward to cooperating with him to continue to improve both the rights of organized labor in Colombia and to protect both labor and civil rights leaders there."

More recently, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay recognized "the significant progress made in terms of a drastic reduction in the number of complaints of extrajudicial executions and the continuous prosecution of members of Congress and public officials for alleged links with paramilitary organizations" in her March 2010 report on the human rights situation in Colombia.

The Liberal Party believes that Canada has a moral obligation to help Colombia continue to improve its human rights record. We must work with Colombia to strengthen its public institutions and create legitimate economic opportunities for all Colombians. This free trade agreement, with the Liberal amendment establishing a human rights reporting requirement, will significantly strengthen Canada's ability to achieve these goals and engage Colombia on the issue of human rights. Furthermore, the Liberal amendment will provide Canadians and Colombians with an ongoing assessment of progress in this area.

Former Deputy Minister of DFAIT, Peter Harder, has called the Liberal amendment a "significant innovation in free trade agreements in that it provides both the Colombian and Canadian legislatures the opportunity to annually review and assess the human rights implications of the agreement. I expect that future parliaments will build on this precedent when they consider proposed free trade agreements."

Prominent civil society organizations and unions in Colombia have also publically supported the proposed amendment.

Dr. Leon Valencia, Executive Director of Arco Iris, stated that "I think it is interesting and useful that the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Canada includes an amendment which requires both governments to present an annual report to the respective Parliaments on the repercussions of the agreement on human rights in each country... This will provide an important yearly forum to discuss the situation in Colombia, and will give Canadian citizens the opportunity to monitor human rights violations in our country." He went on to describe the Liberal amendment as "innovative and converts the Treaty into something which is dynamic and provides new platforms for analysis and discussion. Perhaps this could be included in other free trade agreements."

M. Gerardo Sanchez Zapata, President of the Apparel and Textile Industry of Colombia Trade Union Sintracontexa, lent his support to the agreement on behalf of 12 other Colombian unions: "This procedure is welcomed by Colombian workers and we are thankful to the Parliament of Canada for its position, because it helps strengthen a mechanism already in place that monitors and evaluates the progress in matter of human rights."

Colombia is at a critical juncture in its history, emerging from decades of violence and civil war. The Liberal Party of Canada believes that countries like Canada can support Colombia on its path to peace, justice and reconciliation by helping to build and strengthen Colombia's public institutions and provide greater public oversight on the human rights situation in Colombia. Canada must not turn its back on Colombia and isolate its people at this time. Rather we must seize this opportunity to engage the people of Colombia and work with them to break the cycle of violence and human rights abuses that prevents the country from reaching its vast potential.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to me on this very important issue.

Respectfully,

The Office of Michael Ignatieff, M.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition


I'll spare you the tortured use of italics from the original.

Here's my open letter in response:


Dear Office of Iggy the Boyar:

You're right about only one thing here: This IS an unprecedented step you have taken. And an unfortunate choice of direction.

No previous Liberal administration would have contemplated doing what you have done. They all resisted the US's urging to legitimize Colombia's right-wing government and toxic business atmosphere. So yes, what you have done is indeed unprecedented--for Liberals, and for Canadians.

But that isn't what I petitioned you to do.

I didn't petition you to add a worthless human-rights amendment, which will never be respected and which the Tories will only gut, as is their wont. I petitioned you to OPPOSE the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. You didn't do that; you PASSED it.

And you call yourselves an opposition? I call you a bunch of butt-boys.

But don't worry, a few people in Colombia will thank you for your kindly concern. Those few are Uribe himself, and his cronies--the ones who already own too much of the country; who have taken it from a violent banana republic to a narco-paramilitary failed state; who go around murdering bothersome peasants, stealing their land, and then dressing them in fake FARC uniforms before burying them in mass graves. Cocaine traffickers, in particular, will appreciate the good work you have done; you have just made it that much easier for them to export their noxious product, which will undoubtedly land on our streets, burdening OUR legal system to the breaking point. And of course, we mustn't forget the military-industrial complex, particularly that of Israel, which cheerfully sells weapons to right-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army alike.

And your measly little human-rights amendment proposes to change this situation HOW, again?

Please spare me the elaborate justifications. There is no justification for what you have done to the people of Colombia. Some 4 million of them have already fled to neighboring Venezuela in order to escape from the narco-paramilitaries and the army (which may as well be regarded as a single entity, so indistinguishable are they from one another). One of the Bolivarian missions advanced by President Chávez was to grant them Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, so that they would have a decent shot at jobs, free healthcare, and a good education--things the oh-so-humanitarian government of Alvaro Uribe would not grant them in their native Colombia. It is fair to say that Hugo Chávez has already done more for Colombians than you have, and it's safe to say that it's more than you will ever do.

But then again, Venezuela is Colombia's nearest neighbor and largest trading partner. The violence of Colombia's five-decades-old civil war spills over Venezuela's border (and those of Colombia's other neighbors, Ecuador and Brazil) with nauseous regularity. And so do the drugs. And Hugo Chávez used to be stationed near the Colombian border in his army officer days, ostensibly to patrol for guerrillas, but really to violate the human rights of peasants. He found this role objectionable, as did his fellow soldiers. It was a major turning point in his political consciousness. Now, as president, he takes the position that Colombia has to police its own borders, stop repressing its own people, and not expect Venezuela to pick up the slack in its guerrilla and drug wars. Colombia has failed repeatedly to do so.

Worse, Alvaro Uribe has refused to take responsibility for his own crimes and failures, preferring to project them onto his neighbors. That's why today, President Chávez has broken off relations between Caracas and Bogotá. His patience has been tested long enough. His Ecuadorian friend and counterpart, Rafael Correa, ran out of it two years ago, when Uribe's army bombed his country and then blamed him for "harboring" the FARC when he had done no such thing.

As for me, I have no patience for your nonsensical position that more trade with Colombia is the answer. For whom? Working-class Canadians have never benefited significantly from free trade; just the opposite. The only people ever to benefit from such agreements are those who really don't need the extra cash. Nothing will trickle down to Colombian campesinos, and nothing to the average Canadian, either. The last thing we need is more cheap goods flooding our market; we are already glutted.

And there are only so many bananas we can eat, and there is only so much coffee we can drink. Personally, I prefer to get my bananas from Ecuador and my coffee from Brazil. Those countries have decent presidents and are not known for their narcos or their paramilitaries.

In short, dear Iggy, this is why I won't be voting for you. It's not the only reason, but it's a big one.

Adios, cabrón.

Luv,

'Bina.

July 4, 2010

Economics for Dummies: Crises of Capitalism, made easy

A lecture by British sociologist David Harvey, accompanied by whiteboard cartoons. Suddenly, we can see why the US right-wing have been so busy trying to silence and/or expunge the voices of the left from their universities (hello, David Horowitz, we see what you did there.) We also see why the right has set up its ultra-capitalist, fundie-infused bogus "universities", such as Liberty and Bob Jones, where NO voices from the left enter at all. It's because leftists have ALWAYS known that capitalism never solves its crises, it just shifts them around. And of course, like Otto von Bismarck, Big Capital's fat cats don't want the masses knowing that (or even becoming very educated at all--hence the high rates of illiteracy in the US, and the complete lack of it in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, all of whom have socialist leaders.)

Fortunately, there are ways around everything, and this is one of the ways around that. You'll come out of this with a very clear view of what's wrong with the picture the capitalist media have drawn.

The only question remaining is, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

May 28, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: What's nicer than Evo or Lula?

Why, what else...Evo AND Lula!

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Found at ABI today. Reposted for no reason other than that it's a nice shot of them...and I like it.

March 31, 2010

Somewhere in Bogotá, El Narco is gnashing his teeth over this

Video in Spanish. Story by Aporrea:

Corporal Pablo Emilio Moncayo thanked the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa; that of Brazil, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, and of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, for securing his freedom after twelve years as a hostage of the FARC.

In his first speech as a free man, on Tuesday, in the airport of Florencia, Colombia, he also thanked the Colombians for Peace, Senator Piedad Córdoba, the Catholic Church, and the International Red Cross for their part in the liberation.

"I want to thank the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, for being the one to request this gesture of peace with the guerrillas. I also want to thank the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and of Brazil, Lula da Silva, for their leadership," said Moncayo.

Moncayo also conveyed messages from his comrades still being held by the FARC.

"My colonel, Duarte, and my sergeant, Martínez, request that a non-governmental international aid organization help broker their freedom."

He added that in his own time he will announce his decision whether or not to remain in the Colombian army.

"I'm proud to have worn my uniform the entire time, while having seen so many things, out of love for my beautiful Colombian people," Moncayo said.

At the same time he called for the national authorities of Colombia to deepen their negotiations with the FARC, because the latter represent an important Colombian reality.

"I think the FARC guerrillas will not change the history of Colombia--they simply exist, they are a reality that can't be denied no matter how much you want to. They seem invisible, but there they are," Moncayo commented.

Corporal Moncayo is the second person unilaterally released by the FARC this year, as part of a process which is hoped to lead to humanitarian prisoner exchanges.

Translation mine.

Cpl. Moncayo is one of the more famous hostages formerly held by the FARC. His father, Gustavo, walked the length and breadth of Colombia in chains to protest the continued absence of his son, as well as the Uribe government's continued unwillingness to engage in peace talks with the guerrillas; he became known as the "Peace Walker" for this activity. Until Uribe broke off the process, Moncayo and Ingrid Betancourt were to have been freed during Chavecito's talks with the FARC commanders. Ingrid Betancourt was liberated in a covert operation that was widely trumpeted--and condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross, who did not participate in the operation, but found their logo being used under false pretenses. When the truth about that one emerged, it was a black eye for Uribe.

He must be grinding his teeth to hear Correa, Lula and Chavecito praised here, but not himself.

PS: For more stuff to get El Narco's clashers grinding, click here and scroll to the bottom to hear Moncayo saying you can't deny the reality of the FARC.

February 26, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Lula in Havana

Lula had lots of good things to say about Fidel...

...and oh yeah, Your Barackness, he wants you to lift the blockade on Cuba. (Watch this get ignored and swept under the rug by the lamestream media.)

January 31, 2010

Oh Lula, how could you?

This is what vacillation looks like...

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Maybe this is just resignation, or maybe it's an attempt to play peacemaker, but it sure as hell smells like betrayal to me...

The president of Brazil, Luiz inácio Lula da Silva, is studying the different possible ways of recognizing the new government of Honduras, according his advisor for international affairs, Marco Aurelio García.

Lula's objective is to unite with other countries in the region who have recognized the new president, Porfirio Lobo, who won the elections of last November. The results have already been recognized by Colombia, Panama, Peru, Guatemala and Costa Rica, but were rejected by the countries of the ALBA bloc.

According to García, Lula would be disposed to send a favorable signal to Lobo's executive in the next Latin American-Caribbean summit, which will take place in late February in Mexico. "We're evaluating the situation and waiting on the initiatives of the new government", said García to Reuters.

"Brazil should not remain isolated," García added. For that reason, the Brazilian president will wait until the summit in Mexico, in order to see if the countries of the region adopt a common posture with respect to Honduras. "The decision should be taken together," he added, and assured that "there's no hurry."

Or maybe it's just cynical triangulation, or an attempt to have one's cake and eat it, too. Always so many possibilities to leave one guessing, eh?

Contrast that with the unambiguous stance of Lula's counterpart from Ecuador:

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who landed in the Dominican Republic after his trip to Haiti, met on Saturday with the former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in the Ecuadorian embassy in Santo Domingo. He insisted that Ecuador would not recognize the recently inaugurated president, Porfirio Lobo.

"We won't legitimize a government whose origin is illegitimate," said Correa, referring to the Honduran presidential elections, which were organized by the "de facto" government installed after the coup d'état which removed Zelaya from office.

However, Correa added that the situation would not mean any kind of break with the Honduran people, according to a press release from the office of the presidency of Ecuador.

"He needs no invitation, he can come anytime he wants," said Correa when asked about a possible visit by Zelaya to Ecuador.

Translations both mine.

This is what solidarity looks like:

correa-zelaya.jpg

Lula, take note. And don't sell yourself out, because this one will surely come back to bite you after all you did for Mel. Remember whose embassy gave him shelter from the fascist thugs who wanted to kill him? Why, then, make peace with those thugs--or their illegitimate successors--as long as they remain unpunished for their antidemocratic move?

Or, to put it a different way: Lula, how the hell could you give democracy lip service, only to follow it up with a shank in the ribs? How could you even contemplate it?

January 24, 2010

Music for a Sunday: João Donato in Havana

The great bossanovista (second only to his namesake and lookalike, João Gilberto) comes to his favorite city and jams with the locals. This is part of a longer documentary, but I'm delighted to hear one of my faves in there--"The Frog".

January 18, 2010

Haiti: The UNtold story

If you're wondering why aid has so much trouble reaching Haiti, here's a broad and rather interesting hint, in video form. Those who've been trying to "help" Haiti for years have in fact been actively weakening it because the uppity niggruhs keep trying to elect the "wrong" candidate. And when those aforementioned uppities turn out in the streets to protest the obvious foreign interference in their democratic process, guess what happens? Here's another hint...

Criminalizing dissent. It's the Amurrican Way.

And Canada is being dragged along into this quagmire of utter disgrace, as are the Brazilians--who were chosen specifically because of their color and affinity for the Haitians.

January 17, 2010

Music for a Sunday: Haiti

"Haiti is here. Haiti is not here."

Full lyrics, and translation, here.

BTW, these lyrics, referring to racial injustice in Haiti and Brazil, are especially appropriate in light of a scandal concerning a Haitian diplomat in Brazil a couple of days ago:

The Haitian consul in São Paulo, George Samuel Antoine, not knowing that his microphone was open, commented before a journalistic interview that the earthquake "would be good for" his country, because thanks to it, "we are now more recognized". The diplomat blamed the ills of his country on the fact that "every place where there are Africans is fucked".

The consul also blamed the earthquake on macumba, the religion practiced by a majority of Haitians in spite of official Catholicism: "I believe that because of all this practice of macumba, we don't know if it's that. Africans are cursed in and of themselves."

Upon learning that his words, spoken in confidentiality to an investigator, had been recorded, the diplomat became very nervous and excused himself, saying that he could not speak Portuguese very well, and had been misinterpreted. However, he has been living in Brazil for 35 years, since 1975.

By way of apology, Antoine also recalled that his grandfather, born in Africa, was president of Haiti in the late 19th century, and being so nervous as a result of the earthquake in his country, he managed to avoid getting into an argument.

Throughout the interview, Antoine fingered a rosary. "It's to calm my nerves and receive positive energy," he said.

In Brazil, it is hoped that the government of Haiti takes a firm position on the matter, seeing that this is an offence not only against that country, but against all Africans.

Translation mine.

The reason this is so scandalous should be obvious.

In Brazil, as in Haiti, black slavery, though abolished, still works its malign influence to the present day in the form of racism (and in some cases, de facto slavery still).

A great many Brazilians--some estimate a majority--are mulattoes, although the higher up the class order you go, the less African and more European faces you'll see. It is possible for many a middle-class Brazilian to look white and still carry a lot of "black" blood, as Caetano Veloso does. But he is just as much a mulatto as his friend and collaborator in the song, Gilberto Gil, who looks more black.

In Haiti, as El Duderino reminds us, "black" is supposed to be a deracialized term (under the Haitian constitution), and even white-skinned permanent residents of the land are referred to as "blacks", in a radical interracial solidarity and a vehement rejection of the old slave-order of things. When all are black, all are equal, goes the reasoning; no one gets to lord anything over his neighbor, no matter what color. And no one gets to own another person outright, as chattel. To be a Haitian "black" is to be free, or so it should be.

Yet the racism of colonial times persists in the mentality of many. It is an internalized racism, and even a man of known African heritage can and does let it slip from time to time, as Mr. Antoine has done. The fear and mistrust of macumba, or Voudou, plays into this mindset; it is both racist and superstitious, since Voudounsis (practitioners) are largely peaceful and in fact have maintained the religion as a direct tie back to Africa, as well as a means of gaining liberty for Haiti (and by extension, the rest of the Americas). The fact that Voudou is syncretic is also proof of its peaceful nature; it signals a reconciliation of Catholic saints (bequeathed by white colonists) with African spirits, ancestors and deities. Voudounsis pray to both in the same breath and in the same ceremonies; in fact, they recognize that the "two" are one. The power summoned in the practice of Voudou is personal and can also be political, giving the practitioner the strength that a long struggle for liberty demands.

And that's why this internalized-racist statement of Africans being "cursed" and "fucked" by macumba is so offensive. It directly insults the entire Haitian (and Brazilian) struggle against slavery and racism--a struggle that still goes on to this day.

Haiti is here. Haiti is not here.

December 20, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Best untrained voice EVER.

And really, if it were professionally polished, would Astrud's voice still have that lovely understated wistfulness?

And if there were more to the lyrics, would this play on rhythms (of women's swaying walks, no less!) be as much fun?

And would this song be ruined by those who forget that often, less really is more?

December 14, 2009

Bolivia terror plot: Another Irish connection comes to light

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A heavily armed Michael Dwyer poses with some of his stash in a hotel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Looks like this Irish cowboy wasn't the only one from his country involved in this...

Via Bolivia's Erbol news service, the latest installment in a continuing saga:

Yasser Mohammed, an Irish citizen detained in Brazil this week by that country's security forces, will be extradited to Bolivia to be processed, says César Navarro, the president of the Multipartite Commission of the Chamber of Deputies which is investigating the terror and separatism case.

In a secret operation co-ordinated by Interpol, involving the intelligence services of Brazil and Bolivia, the Brazilian federal police detained Mohammed on Wednesday in the airport in Brasilia. Mohammed was wanted for his ties to the late Eduardo Rózsa Flores, presumed leader of the terrorist cell dismantled on April 16 of this year.

According to Navarro, the information the Irishman could give is highly important to confirm the terrorist and separatist actions which the Rózsa group had planned to execute.

"This man could be an important link for this criminal group. The declarations he made before Brazilian authorities and his extradition to Bolivia could allow us to reach a new level of fundamental information," Navarro told Erbol.

He said that the foreigner had not been included in the initial investigation, but now, once extradited to Bolivia, the Bolivian Public Ministry could take statements from him to establish his complicity with the Rózsa Flores group.

According to the legislator, the investigation will continue on many fronts, once it was established that the group commanded by Rózsa Flores was not one of just a few persons, but included an "army" of mercenaries.

"Rósza Flores was a mercenary who had many people at his service, with whom he planned the actions to take place in Bolivia," Navarro said.

According to preliminary investigations, the detained Irishman is the one who was in charge of providing large-calibre armaments to the group, whose financing is also under investigation. He was detained in Brasilia as he was about to board a commercial flight bound for Lisbon, Portugal.

Mohammed is also accused of being tied to drug-trafficking and money-laundering.

Early in December, the Brazilian federal police were informed by Bolivian intelligence of the possible presence of the extremist in their country. He remains in detention in Brasilia until his extradition can proceed.

Translation mine.

Interesting. I wonder if he also had ties to Shell, I-RMS and the infamous Corrib gas project, like the other Irishman in the plot, the late Michael Dwyer. Wouldn't surprise me if he did, but so far I've found very little on this dude. There are a lot of terrorism-accused Yasser Mohammeds in the world, and a lot of irrelevant gunk in the Google as a result.

I've a hunch we're about to see some innnnteresting monsters coming out of the woodwork. If these guys were a veritable army, as Mr. Navarro says, there will probably be quite a slew of them coming in the weeks and months ahead. Who, and where they're all from, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, if any friendly souls reading me in Ireland, Bolivia or Brazil know this chap or know of him, or just have relevant news articles to share, your feedback would be much appreciated.

November 26, 2009

Luladinejad!

Pepe Escobar goes on a real tear with the Ahmadinejad visit to Brazil:

And as usual, he nails it.

The whore media? Still clueless...

Oh noes! Lula says nice things about Iran, too!

And what things they are...

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plunged into Middle East conflicts today, saying Iran has a "decisive role to play" in the region after a three-hour meeting with its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

With Ahmadinejad seated beside him in the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Brasilia, Lula said Iran can help heal divisions among Palestinians, as he expressed support for a "viable and dignified Palestinian state" to be established alongside a "secure and sovereign Israel." Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel and questioned the Holocaust.

"I work for the building of peace in the world," Lula said. "I defend peace in the Middle East. I defend the Palestinian state and that all may live in harmony."

[...]

"It won't work to leave Iran isolated," Lula said. "If Iran is an important actor in this strife, it's important for someone to sit with Iran, to talk with Iran."

Lula reiterated that the UN should lead peace negotiations in the Middle East after saying last week that the U.S. is responsible for the crisis.

In his radio address, Lula said he'll seek to stage a soccer game between Brazil's national team and a joint Israel- Palestine team to help further the peace process.

"I've had a dream for the past three years, to organize a peace game in a neutral stadium, of a mixed team," Lula said. "This would be an extraordinary achievement for Brazil and, above all, a very important sign for peace."

Auntie 'Bina is hereby bracing herself for the shitstorm of "Lula bad, Lula terrorist, Lula islamofascist" which is sure to come any minute now...

Any...

minute...

now...

Well? It's been three days. Is no one going to slag Lula for pulling a Chavecito?

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November 25, 2009

El Narco is nervous

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Hey Alvaro, are you scared of the big bad popular man next to you?

At least that's the impression I get, from this little item I found in Aporrea:

In a surprise move, the government of Colombia announced the cancellation of a visit by president Alvaro Uribe to the Summit of the Amazonian Countries, just after the president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, host of the summit (in Manaos), declared that it would be a favorable time for a meeting between Uribe and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez.

The government of Colombia confirmed last week that Uribe would be attending the summit, prior to a climate converence of the United Nations in Copenhagen, between December 7 and 18, according to the AFP news agency.

It is expected that in the next few hours the Presidency of Colombia will make public a letter by Uribe in which he will be excusing himself.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, who is on an international tour, will not be attending, and neither will Bolivian president Evo Morales, whose country will be holding elections.

Translation mine.

El Ecuadorable (currently in Belgium, charming the royal pants off the king, while Foreign Minister Fander Falconí stands in for him) and Evo (closing out his electoral campaign in Potosí) both have sound reasons for missing this summit, which they would otherwise unquestionably attend, both having parts of their countries located in the Amazon Basin. But how about El Narco?

Well, maybe it's because Chavecito has made clear his displeasure--or rather, the collective displeasure of all Venezuelans--at not only those seven bases being handed over to the gringos for spying and terrorism purposes, but also the illegal footbridges that enable smuggling and paramilitary incursions (and which were recently destroyed, with no harm to any person or legitimate structures, by the Venezuelan army.)

Chavecito is, as you can see, much bigger (and handsomer) than El Narco. Maybe that's why El Narco can't look him in the eye anymore...it's because he's scared of him. And worse, he knows Chavecito is right. Little wonder he doesn't want Lula shoving the two of them together. He's petrified!

Chavecito won't beat him up, of course--he's way too nice to hit a little shrimp with glasses. But Alvarito still knows he'll be going home awfully butthurt if he gets so much as a stern talking-to from our man in red. And so will his imperial string-pullers.

November 21, 2009

Transgender hate-murders on the rise

...and they are extremely violent, as the statistics in this video show:

Most of the victims are female; an indicator of just how dangerous it is to be a woman, and particularly one who wasn't born a girl but who became one with medical help. The problem is especially acute among the economically disadvantaged, as these are likely to be the ones who can afford the least amount of gender-realigning treatment. Sexist cultures also play a huge part. Women, transgendered or otherwise, are easy targets in machista societies, particularly in Latin America. The transgendered are particularly vulnerable, however, if their appearance isn't fully feminized--it's that much harder to blend in and escape the notice of a rabid machista. Some of these women died when their boyfriends found out (who knows how?) that they were not born girls. Strange and sad how suddenly love can turn into hate...

A large number of those listed here were in Brazil, but what jumped out most at me was how many have died in Honduras--SINCE THE COUP. These women were human rights activists. They died alongside a lot of others--feminists, lesbians, leftists--anyone who stands up to the Gorilletti dictatorship, in other words. I don't think that's a coincidence, do you?

October 30, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: So, about that "good left/bad left" thing...

...I'm sorry, what were you saying again, O ye chumps of the bizmedia and State Dept.?

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Looks to me like Chavecito and Lula are on the same page. Duh, maybe that's because they ARE? The latter was in Venezuela today, joining his big red buddy on a visit to a socialist development centre in Anzoátegui. The two also harvested soybeans together, as befits the leaders of two agrarian countries. And the entry of Venezuela into Mercosur is also a done deal, thanks to Lula.

Good left...bad left...one more artificial dichotomy bites the dust. They're BOTH of the left.

And blue-eyed whitey better not forget it.

October 11, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Not to say I did not speak of flowers

A small reminder of why it's so important that Brazil has lent its embassy as a haven to democracy in Honduras. Just twenty years ago, they emerged from a 25-year era of military dictatorship, in which generals ran the show, and the CIA pulled the strings behind the scenes, training the death squads in the not-so-fine art of thuggery. Torture, disappearances and murders were the lot of many who protested.

This tune has been on my mind for many a week now. Geraldo Vandré's beautiful folk song, celebrating the common courage of people in simple acts of bravery, dates to the late 1960s, when people marched en masse in the streets demanding an end to the dictatorship. It took a long time, but when that day came, it was inevitable. In the meantime, voices kept rising, and this man was just one of them. Others, like Caetano Veloso and his friend and sometime brother-in-law, Gilberto Gil, were first imprisoned and tortured, then had to go into exile. When Lula came to power, he made Gil his minister of culture--a fitting role for one who helped build it in the teeth of a culture-hating junta.

A salute to the people of Brazil, who know what democracy is worth from having lacked it too long themselves.

October 9, 2009

A giant joke on the whole notion of world peace

"The Right to Live in Peace", by Víctor Jara. He wrote this song in honor of Vietnam when the war there was still raging. For speaking out for the Vietnamese, and for his own Chilean and Latin American brethren, Jara was "rewarded" by being one of the first to be rounded up and murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship in the infamous National Stadium in Santiago. The triggerman may well be brought to justice, but the real murderer--or, more accurately, murderers--got away with it.

Good morning! I guess you've all heard by now that His Barackness has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he'll be going to Oslo to claim on December 10. And I'll bet that you, like this lovely Venezuelan lady, are scratching your head over it and going "WTF???"

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The people's ombud of Venezuela, Gabriela Ramírez, said today that she considers it a joke on human rights to present the Nobel Peace Prize to the US president, Barack Obama, because he is the head of the most warlike government on the planet.

"We can only understand this if we accept the thesis that there are two Obamas--one the president of the United States, and the other, the idyllic one, who in his speeches promotes peace," Ramírez said.

For Ramírez, the award is incomprehensible, since it concerns the most polluting and militaristic country on the planet.

"The Nobel Peace prize is for those who work for the planet, not those who expand their war powers with seven military bases in Colombia, promote excessive consumption, and pollute the environment. How can they give a prize for all that?" she asked, on a VTV program.

According to Ramírez, the lack of concrete achievements during his reign is another reason to reject the decision announced from Norway.

Obama heads a fairly young government, whose results have yet to be seen in practice, she said.

Ramírez, a social worker by training, said that if the prize were given for speeches, Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, would deserve one.

Evo proposed a climate tribunal and advocates for defense of the planet, Ramírez said.

Ramírez says that instead of accepting the prize, Obama should close the US military bases [in Latin America], order the 4th Fleet, which patrols Latin American waters, back to port, and seek pardon for genocides committed or permitted by his country in all the world.

Translation mine. Link to Evo's speech added.

I should also add that Evo kept Bolivia from crumbling in the hands of separatist terrorists planning his assassination, and a bloody civil war, from the city of Santa Cruz, with the help of wealthy local financiers. The bastards didn't get him, nor did they blow up his floating parliament on Lake Titicaca as they'd planned, but they did manage to kill his little elderly aunt, Rufina.

Meanwhile, to give you a feel for just how big and dirty a joke on world peace this cynical prize-giving really is, may I direct your attention to this fine piece, by NACLA's Roque Planas, in Venezuelanalysis?

The announcement in mid-July of the near completion of an agreement to allow the U.S. military to lease space at seven Colombian bases prompted nearly unanimous rejection from South American governments. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has called three summit meetings to discuss the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, but Colombia's president, Álvaro Uribe, has refused to back down. In the meantime, other South American nations have begun to arm themselves, fueling fears of an arms race in a region that has not suffered a major inter-state conflict since the end of the Chaco War in 1935.

The source of greatest tension lies on the Venezuela-Colombian border. The Uribe administration argues that it needs increased U.S. military support to suppress drug traffickers and the leftist insurgency of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Although the Colombian government has yet to bring formal allegations, the Uribe administration has insinuated that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez supports the FARC and has diverted Swedish-made rocket launchers to the group-a claim that Chávez denies.

Chávez, on the other hand, maintains that the U.S. government was involved in a 2002 coup to overthrow him and claims that the increased U.S. military presence constitutes a national security threat to Venezuela. Chávez recently announced that the Venezuelan government had been awarded over $2 billion in financing from the Russian government to purchase tanks and an anti-aircraft missile system.

Venezuela is not the only country investing in its military. The Brazilian government is currently negotiating the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a deal with French company Dassault that could be worth up to $7 billion. Three other companies, including Boeing, made unsuccessful offers.

The Bolivian government has also negotiated a much smaller deal with Russia for $100 million to finance unspecified purchases of military equipment, as well as a $30 million presidential plane. The Bolivian government purchased the current presidential plane back in the 1970s.

As if determined to rekindle memories of the Cold War, the Russian military is even going to "help Havana modernize and train its military," according to a recent report from the Miami Herald.

Linkage as in original.

It bears saying that all this "alarming" arming comes not as part of some nefarious terror plot against the people of Latin America, nor is it a declaration of war against those in the United States. It comes as a direct response to the military forces the US has placed in Colombia--seven of them to make up for the closure of the US base at Manta, Ecuador. (President Rafael Correa, alias El Ecuadorable, refused to renew the concession, which ran out this year.)

It also comes in response to other alarming developments, such as this:

The United States will reactivate a radar base and finance the construction of a naval base in Costa Rica, as part of a plan rejected today [October 8,2009] in the region as a menace to sovereignty and security.

The subcommander of US-Southcom, Paul Trivelli, announced the decision to return to operation a modern radar base in the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste, with the supposed objective of combatting drug trafficking.

According to Trivelli, the base functioned there until 1995, when it was closed after several years of operation.

The powerful radar sat on top of Cerro Azul de Nandayure, a site difficult to access, protected 24 hours a day by the police.

In an interview with the newspaper La Nación, Trivelli also announced the investment of $15 million in a naval base already being constructed in the Caldera region, Puntarenas province. There, as well, a school for coast-guard officers is in operation.

Although the Southcom representative claims that these actions are part of the War on Drugs, the announcement caused concern over the renewed interest of Washington in placing more military bases in the region.

Translation mine.

This is a particular concern for Costa Rica, since that country abolished its own armed forces six decades ago, in stark contrast to others in the region, in order to prevent war and military dictatorship from ever taking hold in what was, for the longest time, Central America's most stable and peaceable democracy.

Now, it seems, Costa Rica is defenceless, and since it needs the money (why else has it become such a hotspot for sex tourism?), it's not in any position to "Just Say No" to the War on Latin America Drugs. Instead, it's playing host to something that can only be injurious to its security and sovereignty in the long run (as well as providing heaven only knows how many potential new gringo customers for the local underage prostitution rings.)

The war in Iraq is far from over, and the war in Afghanistan is being ramped up, not wound down. And for this, among many other things, a Nobel Peace Prize has been announced today.

No, I don't understand it either.

PS: El Duderino shares my sentiments, I see.

PPS: So does El Gaviero.

PPPS: Michael Moore has weighed in. Go read! An excellent, timely reminder of what has to be done to earn the prize for realz.

PPPPS: Avaaz has a petition going. Just sign here.

September 22, 2009

Gorilletti: Arrogant ape calls for insurrection in Venezuela, orders Brazil around

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Famous last words? Maybe not, but I have a feeling that all of this will come back to haunt the current de-facto dictator of Honduras--preferably when he's sitting in a nice, dank cell in a penitentiary somewhere:

On Monday night, the de facto president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, told Venzuelans to "get rid of" president Hugo Chávez Frías, claiming he was a menace to the Venezuelan economy.

Micheletti, ringleader of the junta that launched a coup d'état against the legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya, once again claimed a supposed "interference" on the part of Chávez, whom he called a "dictator", as an excuse to call for insurrection in Venezuela during an interview he gave to the channel Televicentro.

"Get rid of that dictator politically, because he's doing damage to your economy....You have to have dignity and don't give him any more chances to humiliate you," Micheletti harangued the Venezuelan people.

Regarding the declarations made by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, who both expressed themselves in favor of the return of Zelaya and asked for compliance [on Micheletti's part] with the San José Accord, Micheletti said: "I hope Hillary and Arias like what's coming out of Zelaya's return now, and that they don't complain if there are lamentable consequences.

"I think what Arias did ended when Zelaya got here, this immediately broke any accord we reached. I respect the opinion of the gringos but they can say what they like--this is our position, the sovereign one taken by the people of Honduras," said Micheletti.

He said he maintains his position on the reinstatement of Zelaya: "He must present himself before justice and be judged. There is no other way out but before justice, it's the obligation of any citizen who has committed a crime."

He ruled out any chance that "Mel" would return to take the reins of Honduras: "There is no form in which he could return to the presidency, he left the country without being president of the republic."

Finally, regarding the decision of Brazil to house Zelaya in its embassy, he said that Brazil must either grant him asylum or hand him over to Honduran justice.

Translation mine; emphasis added.

So, you can now see clearly the arrogance of this unelected little man. Not only has he usurped power in his native Honduras; now he's trying to tell Brazil and Venezuela what to do, too. And he's telling the US to back off, too? And he thinks he is "the people of Honduras"?

And after breaking with the San José Accord (which should never have been reached, IMO, because it grants him way too much bogus legitimacy) he has the gall to accuse Zelaya, who complied, of breaking it?

And oh yeah, then there's the little matter of his ordering Zelaya deported--in his pajamas. Excuse me, who committed the crime, again?

Maybe a max-security rubber suite at the nuthouse would be in order. Where else would you house someone who thinks he's Napoleon?

September 21, 2009

The return of Mel

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"Hola, Bitcheletti, I'm ba-ack!" Guess who's gonna be scrubbing the skidmarks out of his underwear tonight...

So, the news all over the BoRevosphere is that the legitimate president of Honduras is back in country, though not yet behind his desk. Kudos go out to El Salvador for helping him sneak back in (bet the golpistas were only watching the Nicaraguan border!), and to Brazil, for loaning out its embassy as a refuge. (Lula and Mauricio, I owe you guys some serious FLFB tributes. Please pose for some cute photos between now and Friday, y'hear?)

While we wait for the Great Ass-Walloping to begin, let's reflect on the sweetly amusing irony that only yesterday, Gorilletti was bragging to Greta Van Softball on FUX about how he's the bestest Dear Leader ever, and how there's no proof of his human rights abuses, and blah blah blabbity blah blah.

And when you're done with that, enjoy the words of Honduran anti-coup leader Juan Barahona, one of many who've been keeping the faith while they wait for the restoration of their democracy:

The co-ordinator of the National Front Against the Coup D'état in Honduras, Juan Barahona, assured on Monday that there was little chance that the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti would remain in place for 24 hours, following the return of Manuel Zelaya to Tegucigalpa.

"It's very hard for the putschist regime to stay on in power for more than 24 hours, and the Armed Forces will have to unleash a bloodbath in order to stop this [anti-coup uprising]," said the leader in an interview with VTV.

Barahona said that thousands of people are gathering outside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa to see and greet the constitutional president.

"It's a popular reaction, this afternoon Tegucigalpa was a capital inundated with people, and various departments elsewhere have confirmed that more Zelaya supporters are on their way...Now this zone [around the Brazilian embassy] is a sea of people, and more caravans of buses are coming from other cities."

Barahona considers the return of the legitimate president to have caused a popular movement "which no one will be able to stop...it will take a massacre, it's very difficult [to imagine] that the army would want to go there," said Barahona, referring to the area around the Brazilian embassy. He says that "the objective is to bring Zelaya back to the house of government."

Translation mine.

And there is little doubt in my mind that they will succeed in doing just that. Seven years ago, the people of Venezuela did it too--by convincing the loyal sectors of their own armed forces that it was time to look for the legitimate president and bring him back. That took just 48 hours. It's taken a bit longer than that in Honduras, but unless the Honduran army wants a bloodbath, it will have to understand that the people, not the business sector and themselves, are in charge now. And they are not going to rest until the man they elected is back in the sash, Channel 36 is back on the air, and the putschists in custody.

¡Viva Honduras!

EDIT: Looks like he entered via Nicaragua after all, not El Salvador. Sorry, Mauricio, not this week. But keep yer dimples polished anyway, 'coz I like 'em. Meanwhile, Lula's probably gonna be the Lion King of the next OAS or Unasur summit, and Daniel Ortega will get an honorable mention too for sheltering Mel as long as he did.

September 4, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Say "queso"!

What do you do in a resort town like Bariloche, when you're not busy at Unasur conferences? You bring a camera...

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...and get your friends to ham it up, as Chavecito did with his pals, Lugo and Lula.

August 12, 2009

A picture Lanny Davis is hoping you won't see

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Manuel Zelaya (in cowboy hat), the real president of Honduras, arrives in Brasilia for a meeting with his Brazilian counterpart, Lula--who still, for some odd reason, sees nothing legitimate about the coup in Honduras, no matter what crazy language the mongers (like Lanny Davis, and others) try to wrap it up in.

Hey Lanny (who may be well reading this, because someone at the State Dept. certainly is), here's a question for ya: If he's no longer a legitimate president, why are those men in uniform saluting him?

EDIT: Oh look, Lanny sent a response, in picture form:

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Guess that answers MY question.

April 28, 2009

Portrait of the Terrorist as a Young Gun Nut

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Elöd Tóasó, Hungarian/Romanian would-be assassin, posing with a sniper rifle last December at the Hotel Buganvillas, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Too bad it didn't have a magnifying mirror instead of a high-res telescopic sight, so he could take a peek in and realize how stupid he looked.

Strap yourselves in and fold up your tray tables, folks. It's time for another bumpy ride on Air Terrorcell!

Elöd Tóasó, the 29-year-old Hungarian-Romanian apprehended in an antiterror operation on April 16 in Santa Cruz, was the "communications link" of the international mercenary terror cell dismantled by the police, and was tasked with spying and telephone tapping.

In reality, far from being a "young adventurer" in search of a daily living, as described with paternal innocence by the Hungarian ambassador in La Paz, Matyas Józsa, Tóasó received military training in Bucharest, along with the Irishman, Michael Dwyer, who was killed in a hotel in Santa Cruz in a firefight with Bolivian police two weeks ago.

Tóasó, who appears in a photo published by the independent Cochabamba newspaper Opinión holding a sniper rifle with a high-precision telescopic sight, became a mercenary under the influence of Michael Dwyer and also that of the Hungaro-Croatian Bolivian Eduardo Rózsa Flores, leader of the mercenary cell.

The picture was taken in the middle of last December in the Hotel Buganvillas, one of the most exclusive in Santa Cruz, where the armed group stayed for more than two months at cost to a third party, currently unknown, whom Rózsa Flores described in an interview in Budapest last September as "the Bolivian financiers" and providers of the weapons.

According to the management of the five-star hotel, the terrorist group booked in the Buganvillas under false identities.

Tóasó, who was taken captive in the raid two weeks ago along with Jorge Tadik, a Bolivian ex-military man trained in Bolivia but with Hungarian roots, even convinced the ambassador of his own country that he was just an innocent adventurer, in spite of the evidence shown by a video of the conspirators making assassination plans.

"This man, to me, is far from being a terrorist. Young, 29 years old, who made mistakes, and I believe they invited him to come here offering to pay him this and that, but he didn't know what lay in store...I believe that this man had no money, because the financial crisis has hit Hungary hard too. We're very badly off, so this stems from the fact that our people have no money. He was young, and looking for adventure, and accepted something I don't think he thought through," said the Hungarian diplomat, trying to intervene on behalf of his countryman.

In Hungary, Tóasó was known to have belonged to the so-called "Szeklers", who consider themselves to be direct descendants of pure Hungarians, according to Opinión.

Along with Arpad Magyarosi, Tóasó joined the far-right paramilitary "Szekler Legion", which went to war in Croatia for separatist causes in the 1990s.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

Yeah, just another cute young dreamer, like that Irish dude, who supposedly got in over his head and couldn't possibly have been a baddie. Looks to me like he damn well knew what he was doing, and didn't care as long as the rich "Bolivian financier" supplied plenty of money, guns and ammo. (And BMWs, as Mike Dwyer bragged to his friends back home. Which, incidentally, do NOT come cheap in Bolivia, even if you're only renting. Sorry, Mike's friends, your ol' buddy was definitely mobbed up.)

The open question remains as to who that "financier" was, but my spidey-sense tells me Branko Marinkovic has got to be feeling the noose closing in on him by now. The government of Bolivia has sent troops to guard the Brazilian and Paraguayan borders of Santa Cruz, since it's known that the weaponry and Jorge Rózsa Flores both got in through Puerto Suárez, on the border with Brazil. If I were in that gummint, I'd make sure that Branko had no means of leaving the country, lest he pull a Burusas and seek "political asylum" in Peru, too.

PS: For another portrait of a deranged Hungarian from the inside of his cracked skull, I recommend this piece in the Irish Times. Fancy a racist fascist calling Evo, who has never said one prejudiced word against whites, a Nazi! Pot, say hi to kettle over there in the funhouse mirror...

PPS: Andras Kepes, look for a subpoena from the Bolivian government in your mail this week. They're not impressed with you for interviewing that Flores crackpot and then sitting on it instead of informing the authorities of a terror plan. That makes you look kind of complicit in it, dude.

PPPS: A German-language blogger in Ireland is asking the same questions in his blog as Otto, BoRev and I are tackling, respectively, in ours. He's also found the "actual" website of the Szekler Legion to be "under construction", although it wasn't last week. Go to his link if you wanna see screenshots of the icky place before it was taken down for "construction".

PPPPS: And finally, don't worry--these Szekler whackjobs aren't the scariest Hungarians out there by a long shot. Click here to see who is.

March 29, 2009

So, Lula...about that whole "good left" thing...

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Oh Lula, Lula, Lula, you're always getting touted as some kind of savior, some kind of messiah, some kind of Antichávez. You must have special powers to command such incredible regard. Therefore, I'm sure you can explain this, right?

The government of Rio de Janeiro is building concrete walls to prevent sprawling slums from spreading farther into the picturesque hills of this world-famous tourist destination, an official said on Saturday.

Construction has begun in two favelas, or shantytowns, in the southern districts of Rio de Janeiro, a government spokeswoman told Reuters. One of the two is Morro Dona Marta, which police occupied in November to control crime and violence caused mostly by rival drug gangs.

Item: News pieces always scream about the murder rates of Caracas, and they're not shy either about claiming it has something to do with Chavistas. If they can't get away with that, they still blame it on Chavecito, claiming that crime has exploded on his watch--and forgetting entirely that cities have mayors, and that it is the mayors' duty to provide policing. Not to mention that the problem has been festering a lot longer than Chavecito has been or ever will be in power, and that it was probably worse before him; a culture of abuse and oppression can't logically be expected to turn out any other way. Five centuries of highway robbery all over Latin America, and they claim it's the fault of the "wrong" leftist coming to power in Venezuela. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!! Cuckoo!!!

But when it comes to Rio, which has it much, much worse than Caracas (onaccounta it has way way WAY more slums), they take a more neutral tone--in fact, it amounts to a "ZZZZzzzzzzzz" and a roll over. As here:

Officials say the wall is to protect the remaining native forest but critics fear the move could be seen as discriminatory and become a blemish symbolizing Brazil's deep divisions between rich and poor.

You mean it's not? That Brazil really is a racial and economic democracy? And that if the people just wait and trust the benevolent authorities and those handing them bribes, it will all sort itself out, trickle-down style? (Like a heavy rain washing a shantytown down the mountainside, perchance?)

Hi, I'm the Queen of Sheba. I really believe in this "good left/bad left" dichotomy they're pushing. It's a nice distraction from the real issues, is it not? Sure makes the news lively and entertaining. Also makes it look like something is being done about all that poverty that resulted in all those favelas. (In whom, I might add, not a single resident was interviewed to get their opinion for that piece, and only one "official" is named and on record. Wonder why that is?)

Never mind that nothing really is being done where it matters and where it might make a difference. But then, the hallowed halls of the world's big banking institutions are rather a bland setting. The crime there is all carefully whitewashed and out of the public eye. Worse, it's not even recognized as a crime--it's all perfectly legal. So of course no one is building walls around them to keep their tentacles from spreading. No one, that is, except maybe bad old Chavecito, who is also personally to blame for each and every murder in the hillside slums of Caracas. This while Venezuela has done an impressive job of clawing its own way out of poverty.

Meanwhile, is anyone planning to rag Lula about how Brazil is still lagging behind? Nahhhh...of course not. He's the GOOD leftist, don'cha know? Of course he gets a pass. Because damn, it would be a bummer not to go on pushing him as the anti-Chavecito, and neoliberal continuity (with a few mild, superficial reforms) as the "smart alternative" to socialism. Never mind that Lula himself would reject the role the media has foisted on him. He's actually been urging Barack Obama to rethink Venezuela, the 'Cito, and all that crap his so-called "advisors" have been feeding him. But do you think that will be interpreted accurately by the media? No, he's still the anti-Chávez, and don't you forget it! The media have their storyline already mapped out, and no deviations from it will be allowed.

Meaning, that "good left/bad left" thing will go on unabated until further notice. World without end, amen.

February 11, 2009

That whole "good leftist/bad leftist" thing...

...got just a tee-tiny titch more meaningless today. From Aporrea, an interesting little note:

The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, confirmed yesterday in Honduras that she would travel to Cuba "without any type of inhibitions" to make the first official visit in 37 years and with reference to the late president Salvador Allende.

Bachelet, who made a ten-hour visit to Honduras, gave a press conference with her host, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, where she announced her upcoming visit to Cuba, for which she left yesterday afternoon from Tegucigalpa.

"We have agreed on an agenda between both our governments, and I believe it will be an important visit, since it's been more than 37 years since a Chilean president has been there," Bachelet said, recalling Salvador Allende's visit to the island in 1972.

"Any topic which appears to me to be indispensable to the interests of the country, I will discuss not only with the government of Cuba, but with any government," Bachelet said to the press.

Zelaya and Bachelet signed several co-operation agreements in technology and exterior relations.

Translation mine.

This is doubly interesting. It means that Chile and Honduras both have now shrugged off the "no contact with Cuba" yoke imposed on them more than three decades ago by the Washington Consensus. Since Bachelet left for Havana from Tegucigalpa, it means that Honduras as well as Chile is now in the process of establishing normal relations with Cuba.

What else might it mean? Well, as Chileans have been benefiting indirectly from Cuba's free healthcare system (via Venezuela's health missions, which have provided free transportation to and from Cuba), I suspect Chile might soon be playing host to a number of Cuban doctors in its poorer parts. And I don't think Michelle could just stand idly by, observing Venezuela and Bolivia's resounding success at achieving full literacy with Cuban help, either. Something tells me she'll be seeking help from the Brothers Castro on that front, too.

Above all, it means that Dubya's efforts to drive wedges between the "good" (docile) and "bad" (uppity) leftists of South America have been one hell of an Epic Fail. The terrible truth is, the "good" leftists get along famously with the "bad". Lula has spared Chavecito no praises, and it's obvious that Michelle thinks highly of Evo, if her sea-access agreement with him is any indication.

All in all, it looks like LatAm integration is proceeding rather nicely, and the whole "good leftist/bad leftist" dichotomy is just so much horseshit.

Or, in other words: Latin America is nobody's backyard anymore.

January 30, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Karaoke night at the World Social Forum

So who said all this democratic socialist leadership stuff was all serious, all the time? Not these guys:

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Evo: "Here, Lugo, it's YOUR turn to sing with Chavecito now. Quit laughing, it's contagious!"

December 19, 2008

The wide, wacky world of sports fashion

German "Bundesliga" soccer fashions of the 1970s. The designer explains how he wants to make our colorful world even more so. Looks like he succeeded.

(BTW, can someone please explain to me why the models are dancing samba? And why their socks have no FEET?)

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Boffo in Bahia

Plenty was said at a certain Rio Group summit this week. Here are the highlights (and the hottitude, for all you jonesing junkies):

Evo calling for solidarity with Cuba, and for the US to lift the blockade. (Barack Obama, are you paying attention?) The money quote: "Cuba must be allowed into the Organization of American States, or else there should be an OAS without the US."

Here ya go, your dose of Ecuadorability. With a little Cristina and a healthy hunk of Chavecito thrown in just for good measure.

November 19, 2008

Headline Howler: When did Chavecito switch nationalities?

Just now, apparently:

Former Wife Of Brazilian President Hugo Chavez To Run As Mayor In Barquisimeto

I'm sure Lula will be very surprised to learn that Chavecito has suddenly usurped him. They may be good friends, but they're not THAT close!

October 9, 2008

Oh Lula, you card!

imf-burning.jpg

Burn, baby, burn...

Ha ha ha, the president of Brazil cracks me up:

"Where is the IMF now? Why isn't the IMF over there in Europe, giving advice?" Lula asked yesterday.

He added, "Because the crisis is theirs (the rich people's), and they're pretending there is no crisis."

Translation mine.

He is, of course, referring to the massive bailouts of banks on both sides of the Atlantic. From which the IMF, which just loves to exploit the fiscal crises of Latin America and the Third World, was conspicuously absent, as a lender of both money AND "advice". Probably that's because the IMF, like the capitalist system of which it's a product, has been in deep doo-doo for quite some time now.

Oh that Lula! What a comedian!

October 6, 2008

In which Bina pwns another hapless crapagandist

Go sit in the corner, dumbass!

OMG, now we know one more publication that's either staffed entirely by CIA plants, or else it's too fucking cheap to hire even one teeny tiny factchecker. Yes, folks, it's the Christian Science Monitor, and look how they've butchered Bolivia!

Bolivia is teetering on the brink of conflict, threatening to destabilize a region much closer to home and further damage our troubled economy.

Right away we can see that the author, one Seth Kaplan, who styles himself "a business consultant to companies in developing countries and a foreign-policy analyst", is teetering on the brink of Teh Stoopid. Bolivia just stepped back from the brink of conflict, actually, with support from all of South America. Evo is now in talks with the Media Luna-tics, even though they are people you really can't talk to or reason with--they're like tantruming toddlers, only with gangs of hired thugs to do their stomping for them.

And how a tiny country like Bolivia, which the US is doing its damnedest to penalize economically for its independence, could be "threatening to...further damage our troubled economy" (in the US, that is), really makes no sense at all.

But wait! It gets dumber...

Bolivia is synonymous with political and social strife. Long known for its deep social inequities and political turmoil, this country of 9 million people has increasingly been divided geographically, economically, and even culturally. Two groups now fight for control of the state: those in the lowlands, mostly capitalist mestizos (people of mixed European ancestry) who support globalization and benefit from Brazil's booming economy, versus the indigenous groups in the Andes, the anti-American Aymara and Quechua, who prefer state control of the economy.

Yeek. This oversimplification is so gross, it gives one to vomit.

Someone please clue Mr. Kaplan in: Bolivia is not "synonymous with political and social strife" (WTF is that supposed to mean?), not all the mestizos are capitalists, and the Quechua and Aymara peoples are NOT "anti-American", they ARE Americans--SOUTH Americans.

In fact, someone please send Mr. Kaplan a copy of Cocalero, so he can see how the white and mestizo people in "capitalist" Santa Cruz department turned out by the hundreds at a fancy hotel to support Evo during his election campaign. Middle-class businesspeople, goshdarnit! Telling a socialist they like his ideology! No shit, it's really in there!

But wait...it gets dumber still:

President Evo Morales has exacerbated these divisions since coming to power in 2005. Although rightly concerned that his indigenous supporters would not benefit from the state's growing gas revenue, he's alienated his opponents by trying to centralize authority, confiscate property, and illegally ram through a new constitution.

Bitch, please. Evo didn't alienate his opponents, unless you consider having the effrontery to be a brown-skinned indigenous guy to be some form of intentional provocation. Oh wait, my mistake--make that having the effrontery to be a brown-skinned indigenous guy who just happens to be the first Bolivian president in history to be of that persuasion.

As for "centralizing authority", "confiscating property" and "illegal ramming" (Oooooo! Kinky!), try and find those anywhere. The opposition had their chance to show that they could handle decentralized government, vast tracts of land, AND a piece in the writing of their country's constitution, and they eated it. All of it.

But wait! Believe it or not, it gets even dumber than this:

The risk of civil war has markedly increased in recent weeks. The Army has occupied an opposition province, declaring martial law there and imprisoning the governor on charges of "genocide." Fighting has killed some 30 people. Anti-Morales protesters have occupied central government offices in Santa Cruz, the country's business capital, and interrupted natural-gas deliveries to Brazil.

Morales has attempted to blame Washington for Bolivia's troubles, expelling the US ambassador on the spurious grounds of fomenting rebellion. He behaves like his close ally, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who also expelled his country's US ambassador to distract attention from his own problems.

Okay, I'll give Kaplan credit for at least getting the part about the anti-Evo protesters and their sabotage attempts right. But that's about it. "Fighting" didn't kill 30 people; they were indigenous Evo supporters, and they were ambushed and shot in a river. They did not "fight"--they FLED, and they were shot in mid-water by anti-Evo snipers! This, I would say, was ample justification for sending in the army, imprisoning the prefect who ordered the massacre, and securing the gas installations against the fascists so they can't fuck with Brazil's gas supply anymore.

And yeah, so Evo blames the US. He doesn't merely "try" at that, though; he succeeds. When an enemy prefect met with a US ambassador in the dead of night and barred the media from the meeting, the government news agency posted the photos of the two skulking around outside. If that's not incriminating evidence of a US conspiracy against Evo, I don't know what is.

And yeah, so Evo's acting like Chavecito. In other words, like a man in charge of his own heart, mind and gonads. The US no longer has Latin America OR all its leaders by the short-and-curlies; get used to it!

But wait, we haven't yet plumbed the full depth of the dumbth:

The US government should support the initiative launched last month by the nascent Union of South American States. Just four months old and untested, UNASUR agreed to organize commissions to investigate killings and seek a compromise between the Bolivian government and its opponents.

Washington should also persuade Brazil to play a greater role in the conflict, and use its foreign aid or trade policies to support reconciliation efforts. Brazil is easily Bolivia's most important foreign investor, and its president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is the only prominent international leader trusted by both of the country's warring parties. Brazil has the most at risk in continued turmoil.

If either UNASUR or Lula can get Morales to back off from his hard-line positions, a workable agreement should be possible. Both sides could claim victory if a new constitution gives more authority to individual provinces and transfers more of the hydrocarbon revenue to poorer areas.

Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong, WRONG. Washington should do NOTHING, especially when it comes to using Brazil to hit Bolivia. Lula is a leftist, too, and he's frankly sick of being Washington's cat's-paw. He's with Evo, just as he's with Chavecito; he's just too polite to say so directly. Brazil and Bolivia can work out their own gas deals; in fact, Brazil will ONLY deal with the federal government of Bolivia, not the skunky little Media Luna prefects, when it comes to natural gas. Yes, that means EVO. Who, by the way, IS trying to get more of that hydrocarbon revenue to the poorer areas, and especially pensions for seniors. The Media Luna-tics are trying to stop that, and Evo is right to take a hard line against them; imagine if half the state governors in the US suddenly revolted against Dubya (oh, devoutly to be wished!)

Also, UNASUR doesn't seem untested to me. It came together rather nicely on Evo's behalf, and sent the Media Luna-tics limping off with their tails between their legs. Those guys, talk about chutzpah, wanted to attend the meeting as a nation, and no one in UNASUR would recognize them as such. That's gotta hurt! But hey, give UNASUR credit--they're tested enough to be 100% clear as to what's a nation and what's not.

Believe it or not, though, that's not the end of the stoopid. Here it comes, folks...big breath:

Washington needs to carefully calibrate its policies to encourage this result. While actively persuading Lula to mediate the crisis, it should link the accord with the $100 million in annual foreign assistance that Washington gives Bolivia, as well as continued participation in the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. (Tens of thousands of Bolivian manufacturing jobs depend on access to US markets, which this act provides.) At the same time, Millennium Challenge Account money could be offered as an incentive. Bolivia is eligible for $598 million, which could be disbursed after an agreement is fully implemented. Offering to replace the US ambassador could be a sign of goodwill.

Washington has a delicate role to play in a country where past grievances - whether real or imaginary - color any act today. But at the least it should not be giving a blank check to a regime that has both repeatedly insulted the US and has worked assiduously to overturn democracy.

Oh yeah, replacing one interfering ambassador with another one--same old shit, fresh new asshole. Great idea!

And how about that--"overturn democracy". Hello? Evo was democratically elected, so was the Constituent Assembly that wrote the new constitution, and now Evo wants to put that constitution to a popular referendum. Meaning, everybody in Bolivia gets to vote on it, just as they got to vote on whether Evo stays or goes. If that's "overturning democracy", I'd hate to see what Kaplan calls "upholding" it.

BTW, the people of Bolivia voted overwhelmingly for Evo. The only duty Washington has now is to ACCEPT THE WILL OF THE BOLIVIAN PEOPLE AND LEAVE EVO ALONE.

October 3, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A four-way dimplefest

four-way-dimplefest.jpg

It was all smiles for Chavecito, Evo, Lula and El Ecuadorable at a recent summit in Manaus, Brazil. The great news from this one? The Bank of the South, Bancosur, will open in December, and will probably provide a huge boost to the region--and a buffer against the crisis of Wall St. to boot.

September 22, 2008

Schloppenheimer: pigeonholing Lugo, or trying to (and failing)

Pigeons in pigeonholes

Gotta love that Andres Oppenheimer (she said, dripping heavy sarcasm). The Miami Herald's resident narcissist-wankerist was down in Paraguay this week to ask stupid questions of the new president, Fernando Lugo, and to get some sensible, if frustratingly (for the Schloppenheimer, anyway) nuanced answers:

Continue reading "Schloppenheimer: pigeonholing Lugo, or trying to (and failing)" »

There they go, with their tails between their legs...

...singin' doo wah ditty ditty dum ditty doo...

Two Human Rights Watchers expelled from Venezuela, boo fucking hoo

José Miguel Vivanco and Daniel Wilkinson, on their way out of Maiquetía Airport in Venezuela, en route to São Paulo, Brazil, looking like two walking peptic ulcers.

So, some people are wringing their hands about how Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolás Maduro just flat-out told the guys from Human Rights Watch that the door's over there, and not to let it hit 'em where their mamas done split 'em? And oh, how bad this looks on Venezuela? Like it confirms every bad thing HRW has said?

Continue reading "There they go, with their tails between their legs..." »

August 24, 2008

Suck my gas valve, bitches!

From Aporrea, another example of Evo's cojones in action.

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, ratified on Saturday that he would not permit the opposition prefects and "civic organizers" to close gas valves for any reason. For this reason, he instructed the Armed Forces to guarantee security to all natural-gas installations and prevent any assaults on the economy of the Bolivian state.

The far right, according to President Morales, "are already meeting now in the Bolivian Chaco to try to take over the valves. That's an assault on the Bolivian people." He informed the hundreds of delegates meeting for the second consecutive day in the national assembly of the National Coordinator for Change (Conalcam) that he had spoken with various ministers and vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera, with whom he resolved to guarantee security for gas ducts and valves.

"This intended takeover of the valves is not an action against Evo Morales, nor the government, but against the Bolivain people," he added. He was referring to the decision of the "civil society" directors of the Media Luna region, who had threatened to take over all oil and gas wells and initiate an indefinite blockade of the roads, starting on Monday, August 25.

The gas-producing provinces of Cordillera, Luis Calvo and Gran Chaco, in the departments of Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca and Tarija respectively, announced a blockade of all roads in the Bolivian Chaco region, which borders on Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. The three regions contain the largest natural gas reserves in Bolivia, estimated at 1.36 trillion cubic metres.

Translation mine.

As you can see, these fascists are not only keen on cutting Evo's throat (and that of every other indigenous person in Bolivia), they also have no problem shooting themselves in the foot. Because of course, the gas-producing provinces all border on the three countries most likely to be purchasing gas from them. So who's this blockade going to hurt? You guessed it--the very people who are hoping to ultimately cash in on it. (Remember, Brazil and Argentina will not do business with anyone but the federal government of Bolivia when it comes to gas, and neither, I suspect, will the newly leftist, pro-poor government of Paraguay, whose stated mission is to lift its own indigenous out of the same poverty the Bolivian neighbors are now fighting.)

I guess I could further translate Evo's remarks as a "suck this, bitches!" to the opposition.

Of course, what you get when you suck a gas valve is suicide a la Sylvia Plath. Maybe that's what Evo was alluding to when he said the fascists are "agonizing". Hey, if they're in a world of hurt, I say put 'em out of their misery. Bolivia can surely get along without them!

July 26, 2008

I could have told them so, but would they listen?

Whoa--is the sky falling, or what? The Economist has finally gotten (partway) off its "rah rah, America" kick and published a (somewhat) honest assessment of what's going on in the States. And a thing of beauty it is, too:

One source of angst is the sorry state of American capitalism (see article). The "Washington consensus" told the world that open markets and deregulation would solve its problems. Yet American house prices are falling faster than during the Depression, petrol is more expensive than in the 1970s, banks are collapsing, the euro is kicking sand in the dollar's face, credit is scarce, recession and inflation both threaten the economy, consumer confidence is an oxymoron and Belgians have just bought Budweiser, "America's beer".

Wow! And that's only the second paragraph. It goes on in that vein pretty much throughout the piece, with occasional excursions into the silly (which I'll get to shortly.)

I think we can safely say this marks an epoch. Just a few short years ago, this self-same Economist was totally behind the Washington consensus. Rather like the woman in the famous picture, cleaning up after the elephant by catching its droppings in a big bag-on-a-stick as they fell, so they wouldn't hit the ground and be seen for the vast load of shit they are.

Unfortunately, this moment of truth shall pass, as does everything else in the transitory world of market capitalism. And in fact, within the same article, we see evidence that the editorial writer doesn't really get what's going on at all:

Continue reading "I could have told them so, but would they listen?" »

June 11, 2008

Justin Delacour kicks the Dissociated Press's ass

'Bout time someone did! And who better than a Latin America scholar, who knows how important it is to work with all the facts, the accurate facts, and not just whatever bullshit is convenient to the State Dept., Big Bidness, Big Oil, etc.?

Unfortunately, the AP's bad reporting isn't limited to its Caracas bureau; I've seen it hit Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador with the Stoopid Stick, too. Surely that's not a coincidence, since all three of them are friendly with Chavecito's Venezuela. Why they haven't also beaten up on Chile, Brazil and Argentina, I don't know; all three of their leaders have lent support to Chavecito, too, though they're a bit shy about signing on to the ALBA. (Hmmm, maybe that last is why--it gives the Usual Suspects the false impression that they might still be amenable to neoliberalism, like Colombia and Peru, but have only been playing coy so far.)

I'd write a letter too, and maybe someday I will, but right now I'll just stick to grousing on this blog. And to the AP, I'll let Johnny Cash's finger do the talking:

Johnny Cash lets us know how he really feels

June 9, 2008

And another one's gone, and another one's gone...

Another one bites the dust! Damn, how many more myths does Chavecito plan on busting this week?

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, directed a message to the new chief of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, on Sunday, in which he called for the unconditional liberation of all the group's hostages. Then he assured that in Latin America, "the age of guerrilla wars is history."

"It's time for the FARC to release everyone they're holding in the mountains," Chavez demanded of Cano, adding at the same time that "it would be a great gesture, a change from nothing."

According to the president, the situation in which Latin America and the United States now find themselves "appears to be creating favorable conditions for a peace process in Colombia", for which the release of all hostages "would be the first step" toward success.

Continue reading "And another one's gone, and another one's gone..." »

May 4, 2008

Santa Cruzin' for a bruisin'

Tweety tawt he taw a coup d'etat. He did! He DID tee a coup d'etat!

You did, Tweety...you DID tee a coup d'etat!

Roto-Reuters UK and the Washington Whore Post are both cheerleading quite blatantly for Evo's opponents, undoubtedly to soften up us gullible anglophones for the "inevitable", undemocratic outcome of a deeply antidemocratic, unilateral (not to mention illegal) "referendum". Gee, where have we seen this before?

Too bad for this cutesy little media offensive that some of us can read Spanish, and one of us has seen fit to translate...this:

Continue reading "Santa Cruzin' for a bruisin'" »

April 4, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito in Brazil

Okay, I'm a bit behind on this because Chavecito has been busier than a one-legged man in a soccer tourney. But I still thought I'd share this photo of Chavecito on his recent trip to Brazil (from which he's been back for a few days now).

The Chavecito-Lula Grip'n'Grin!

It's just a photo-op grip'n'grin shot with Lula, but it's a cute one because they both look like they're actually having a good time.

February 21, 2008

Taking the wind out of an overblown pop star

Heh, heh, heh. Didn't see this coming, did anyone now?

Hugo Chavez says Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz is welcome to perform at his presidential palace and denied Thursday that his government retaliated against the Latin Grammy winner because of critical comments he made.

More than 80 performers and other celebrities signed a statement supporting Sanz after his concerts were cancelled in Venezuela. Signers including Shakira, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Penelope Cruz and even soccer star David Beckham said they "believe in a Latin America where we are all free to express our views."

Venezuelan organizers said Sanz's sold-out Feb. 14 concert in Caracas was cancelled because it lacked "the appropriate conditions." The announcement came after government officials said Sanz would not be allowed to hold the concert at the state-controlled stadium because of his past criticism of Chavez.

Chavez denied any attempt to censor or retaliate against Sanz. "Come here and sing in Miraflores," he said, referring to Venezuela's presidential palace.

Aporrea has more:

Continue reading "Taking the wind out of an overblown pop star" »

January 29, 2008

Joao Goulart, murder victim

Courtesy of Aporrea, another skeevy spy story comes to light:

The Uruguayan ex-spy, Mario Neira Barreiro, asserted that the former Brazilian president, Joao Goulart, was assassinated in 1976 at the request of then-dictator Ernesto Geisel, who ordered "Operation Scorpion".

In an interview with the daily Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, Neira Barreiro said that the Brazilian political police ordered the assassination of Goulart by the Uruguayan Antisubversive Military Action Group (GAMMA), on the orders of dictator Geisel, who was in power from 1974 to 1979.

The ex-president, Goulart, died in Argentina in 1976, where he had been living since his ouster in 1964 by a military coup. The coup led to a dictatorship that lasted until 1985.

The ex-spy said that the so-called "Operation Scorpion" followed operations "Jakarta" and "Bandeirantes", which persecuted Brazilian opponents of the dictatorships in the region before 1975.

Goulart headed a group of Brazilian politicians in favor of a negotiated exit of the military dictatorship.

The declarations of Neira Barreiro confirmed the existence of a repressive international network prior to Plan Condor.

Continue reading "Joao Goulart, murder victim" »

January 4, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Random Evo and senseless cuteness

You know you're a hottie when you can even make a miner's helmet look good...

Evo in a miner's helmet

...especially when combined with something as unlikely as floral garlands.

And of course, we already know what Evo does for soccer shorts:

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Random Evo and senseless cuteness" »

December 7, 2007

One more blow for the Empire

And this one comes from Brazil.

The president of Brazil, Luiz Lula da Silva, affirmed that South America has put the era of neoliberalism behind it, and said he agrees with the nationalization of natural gas by his colleague in Bolivia, Evo Morales.

According to the ANSA news agency, Lula, in a meeting with other South American leaders, said that in recent years the region has experienced a "political phenomenon" in which governments were elected that were "advanced in socio-political matters."

The Brazilian president opined that his Bolivian counterpart "did the right thing in nationalizing gas. The gas is an instrument, a raw material, it is the only thing Bolivia has", according to the Folha de Sao Paolo newspaper.

After the nationalization of Bolivian hydrocarbons on May 1, 2006, Brazil suspended its investments in the country, in what it considered a defense of the interests of its oil company, Petrobras.

However, Lula da Silva reiterated his decision that the company would re-invest in Bolivia, which he will visit on the 17th of December.

Translation mine.

There goes a major pin from under the Bolivian fascist opposition, which has undoubtedly been after Evo's blood. For what? What else--preventing them from profiting by Brazilian investment. They claimed he was ruining the country. How it's possible to ruin a country by raising its share of the profits of its natural resources, such that Bolivia no longer has to borrow money to pay its civil servants' Christmas bonuses, is beyond me.

But such is the logic of the fiscal fascist. If they're not making all the money, no one else deserves a cut either.

Good on Evo, though, and good on Lula. Let's hope Lula does the same with Brazil's burgeoning oil reserves as Evo is doing with Bolivia's gas.

Next front in the oil wars--Brazil?

Watch out, Lula. With every one of these finds you make, you end up endangering yourself and your country...

Further oil and gas supplies have been discovered off the south-eastern coast of Brazil, boosting the shares of state energy firm Petrobras.

The emergence of a new reserve in the Espirito Santo field comes a month after a reserve of up to eight billion barrels was found nearby.

No figures have been put on the size of the latest discovery although Petrobras said it offered "high potential".

It believes Brazil could become one of the world's top 10 oil producers.

Brazil currently has proven oil reserves of 14 billion barrels, more than half of which have been discovered in the past five years.

Ministers believe a succession of recent finds could enable Brazil to eventually match the oil output of powerhouses such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

This would be a good time for Brazilian voters to turf out every last right-wing free-trader in their parliaments, and elect someone who will put that oil money to good use developing the country from within. You know, somebody like Chavecito. Only speaking Portuguese rather than Spanish.

Of course, as soon as they do that, Washington will want a piece of their ass, too.

November 20, 2007

We all live in a Brazilian submarine

Everybody sing! "Brazilian submarine, Brazilian submarine..."

And our friends are all on board; many more of them live next door. And the band begins to play...

This month's discovery of a monster offshore oil reserve justifies Brazil's plan to build a nuclear submarine because it would be used to protect the find, the defense minister said.

"When you have a large natural source of wealth discovered in the Atlantic, it's obvious you need the means to protect it," Nelson Jobim said Thursday at a defense conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Jobim said Brazil must safeguard the Tupi field and its 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil reserves from other nations and from "actions that could come from the area of terror," the government's Agencia Brasil news service reported.

Continue reading "We all live in a Brazilian submarine" »

November 8, 2007

Headline Howler: Who you callin' ugly?

Well, I guess if he calls himself ugly, it must be okay for Reuters to do it too. (The "quotation marks" make it all right, you know.)

Hugo Chavez calls himself ugly and his looks earned him the nickname "Goofy" in the military, but the president's image is changing -- he is now considered one of Venezuela's sexiest men.

A poll said on Thursday the fifth-most desired man is Chavez, whose large nose, protruding lips, forehead mole and gap in his front teeth are easy fodder for caricature artists in a South American nation obsessed with beauty.

Continue reading "Headline Howler: Who you callin' ugly?" »

July 4, 2007

So nice to know so little has changed!

Oh Brazil. I thought this sort of thing was supposed to have ended...in 1888!

More than 1,000 labourers have been freed in Brazil by the government's anti-slavery team.

They were said to be working in inhumane conditions on a sugar cane plantation in the Amazon.

An ethanol-producing company which owns the plantation has denied allegations of abusing the workers.

Continue reading "So nice to know so little has changed!" »

April 3, 2007

Brazilian women say "Nao" to Bush's ethanol scheme

Are you listening, Lula?

(Video originally seen on Aporrea, courtesy of TVColetiva Brazil. Portuguese only, but it's easy to tell what's going on.)

There were about 900 women at this demo, according to Aporrea. This was a serious one. But entirely peaceful, in spite of guards trying to confiscate their banners.

March 13, 2007

Scared shitless of success

Big, bad, brave Dubya--whatta man. He's so not afraid of Chavecito that when asked about him by a reporter, he does what any red-blooded gringo cowboy would do...

...he dodges the question in the hope that no one will notice how he's quaking in his too-big boots.

"Hugo Chavez suggested that you are afraid to mention his name," asked a U.S. journalist yesterday, "so are you? and how much of a threat is he to United States interests in the hemisphere?"

Rather than respond or decline to answer, Bush changed the subject.

"To South America and Central America to advance a positive constructive diplomacy that's being conducted by my government on behalf of the American people," Bush began, "My message to the people in our neighborhood is that we care about the human condition and that we believe the human condition can be improved in a variety of ways. One, investment and so the question is how can we have constructive dialogue with our neighbors as to how to spread the benefits of investment."

Continue reading "Scared shitless of success" »

March 9, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Bushie Beware!

All over Latin America, they're standing up to BushCo on its current round of smarm offensives...

...or against them, as the case may be.

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Bushie Beware!" »

February 23, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Representing at Carnival!

A couple of weeks ago, I featured Caetano Veloso, performing his great "Tropicalia". This week, it's his old friend (and sometime brother-in-law)'s turn:

Gilberto Gil, Son of Gandhi

Gilberto Gil, Brazilian rocker turned minister of culture, rockin' out here in the garb of the "Sons of Gandhi", his longtime favorite samba school in his hometown of Salvador, the capital of Bahia.

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Representing at Carnival!" »

February 16, 2007

O doomsayers, what say you to this?

Evo and Lula have just inked an agreement over natural gas. And not a shot was fired, as some were fearing when the Bolivian army went ahead with nationalization plans!

Bolivia has reached agreement on a price increase over its natural gas exports to Brazil.

The deal, signed by Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales, ends months of dispute over the issue.

Continue reading "O doomsayers, what say you to this?" »

February 2, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva a banda-da-da!

The original Festive Leftist, Brazil's Caetano Veloso, still kicks ass. This is "Tropicalia", a surreal collage of images that dates back to 1968 and sounds every bit as relevant today.


January 19, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Thumbs up!

Chavecito gives samba school the thumbs-up

Chavecito's in Brazil right now for the Mercosur summit, reaping the praises of his friends there as he urges a break away from the Washington consensus. Looks like he, Evo and Lula had some fun with the samba, too.

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Thumbs up!" »

January 5, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito rings in a new year

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito rings in a new year" »

October 31, 2006

Another opportunity for Lula to learn from Chavecito

From the Beeb, some interesting words on the newly re-elected Lula and what his mandate could mean:

Brazil's newly re-elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has set out priorities for his second term.

In television interviews, he said the emphasis would be economic development, the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, and education.

Continue reading "Another opportunity for Lula to learn from Chavecito" »

October 29, 2006

Be-bop-a-Lula!

He's Brazil's baby!

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been re-elected in a clear victory, polling more than 60% of the vote against rival Geraldo Alckmin.

In a victory speech, Lula said he would govern for all Brazilians and intensify efforts to alleviate poverty during his second four-year term.

"We will give attention to the most needy. The poor will have preference in our government," he said.

Lula narrowly failed to win in the first round, forcing Sunday's run-off.

Continue reading "Be-bop-a-Lula!" »

May 7, 2006

Yes, it's time to bomb Brazil!

After all, they've gone "nucular"!

Brazil has joined the select group of countries with the capability of enriching uranium as a means of generating energy.

A new centrifuge facility was formally opened on Friday at the Resende nuclear plant in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Continue reading "Yes, it's time to bomb Brazil!" »

May 5, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Just in time for Cinco de Mayo

And while this didn't happen in Mexico, there were plenty of amigos:

Left to right: Presidents Nestor Kirchner (Argentina), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva (Brazil), and Hugo Chavez (Venezuela).

Chavecito just did himself proud yet again, by brokering a meeting between Bolivia and Brazil and Argentina to renegotiate the latter two countries' contracts for extracting natural gas in Bolivia, which recently nationalized its natural gas deposits.

March 5, 2006

Soy loco por ti, Simon Bolivar?

At last, my suspicions can be laid to rest--the provenance of the tune for Vila Isabel's winning samba (in the Rio carnival) is revealed:

According to percussionist and composer, Jose Carlos Capinan, the chorus, title and even the samba beat was composed by himself and current Brazilian Culture Minister Gilberto Gil in 1967.

Capinan says he has sent a letter, complaining of copyright infringement to the Samba school and the Venezuelan government.

Continue reading "Soy loco por ti, Simon Bolivar?" »

March 3, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Simon Bolivar goes to Rio

Woo-hoo! Congratulations are in order to Hugo Chavez and PDVSA for scoring a major, MAJOR victory:

The annual parade competition at Brazil's famous Rio de Janeiro carnival has been won by a samba group largely funded by the Venezuelan government.

The Vila Isabel group, which was declared the winner after a dance-off, had Latin American unity as its theme.

Vila Isabel's president, Wilson Moises Alves, thanked Venezuela's national oil company, PDVSA, for its funding.

PDVSA will not say how much money was involved, but reports estimate its donation at more than $500,000.

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Simon Bolivar goes to Rio" »

February 17, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging, Too: Tropicalia comes to "London, London"--again

Anyone know where I can get really, REALLY cheap airfare from Toronto to London so I can catch this?

Chacrinha poster from Tropicalia exhibit

Wacky TV variety-show host Chacrinha (José Abelardo Barbosa de Medeiros, 1916-1988), an inspiration to the Festive Left artistic movement, adorns a poster from the "Tropicalia" exhibit, coming to the Barbican in London, UK. The exhibit runs from February 13 to May 22, 2006.

(This'll teach me to jump the gun when it comes to FLFB! --Your Humble(d) Author.)

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The art of Marti

Passing a painting of Jose Marti

Raul Martinez's painting "Marti y la Estrella" during the first day open to public of the "Art of Cuba" exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil. (Photo credit: AFP/Mauricio Lima)