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Archive for the ‘Latin America’ Category

Galt’s Gulch

Posted by Charles II on October 12, 2013

Too weird. The Jeff Berwick of The Dollar Vigilante (via Modemocrat, in a thread appropriately entitled Idiots”):

After months of hard work by the entire staff at Galt’s Gulch Chile (GGC) I am extremely pleased to announce to the world that Ayn Rand’s vision in her iconic book, Atlas Shrugged, has become a reality. It is unfortunate that the world has transformed much into what Rand had envisioned and the need for a place like Galt’s Gulch has become so urgent. But, since that is today’s reality we are very happy to offer the respite from the Western world of oppressive governments to freedom-minded people in which they can build a new, more prosperous community.

The runners up were Mexico and Thailand, famous for the freedom supplied when one’s government is run by narcotraffickers or military dictators respectively. It’s just amazing that mature democracies, where people can actually vote, haven’t discovered the advantages of forming a government based on retreating into survivalist communes.

Posted in Ayn Rand, Latin America, looney tunes | 4 Comments »

The patter of little lawsuits

Posted by Charles II on September 22, 2013

Curt Anderson of AP reports at HuffPo that Chiquita is facing lawsuits over its payments to a right-wing Colombian death squad, the AUC. Chiquita has admitted to paying $1.7 M to the AUC, which it called blackmail, and pled guilty to assisting terrorists. It is now facing civil actions in Florida. It has appealed to the 11th Circuit Court on the basis that the victims families can’t prove a connection between the payments and the murders. One would think that Chiquita’s best defense would be that it also made payments to the FARC, the people who the AUC was supposedly fighting while, in fact, terrorizing the entire population.

The 11th Circuit has previously ruled that a Bolivian Minister of Defense can’t be held liable for killings that resulted from his orders, issued on the battlefield, to fire at certain locations. You know, because pulling the trigger doesn’t necessarily mean that someone at where the gun is pointing is going to be wounded and perhaps die. Or whatever.

According to Telesur, the objective of the AUC violence, according to Raúl Emilio Hasbún alias Pedro Ponte o Pedro Bonito, was to displace local communities in areas where Chiquita wished to grow bananas.

It’s not like I expect any lawsuits against American corporations for their crimes to succeed in the present unjust judicial system, but perhaps, like the patter of raindrops on an autumn afternoon, they may awaken Americans to the dark side of our engagement in Latin America.

Posted in judicial rulings, judiciary, Latin America | Comments Off

Yes, remember 9/11… including the one in Chile

Posted by Charles II on September 11, 2013

No one who was over the age of 3 in September 2001 will forget our 9/11. And we shouldn’t. Al Qaida committed an outrageous act of butchery, targeting mostly civilians, purely to terrorizing Americans. This day, like December 7th, 1941, will live in infamy.

But there was another September 11th when terrorists killed thousands. And an American president, in effect, ordered it:

DemocracyNow:

PETER KORNBLUH: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger launched a preemptive strike against Salvador Allende [President of Chile in 1972]. They decided to stop him from being inaugurated as president of Chile. He hadn’t even set foot in the Moneda [Presidential] Palace, when Nixon and Kissinger just simply decided to change the fate of Chile. Nixon instructed the CIA to make the Chilean economy scream, to use as many men as possible. The first plan was to actually keep Allende from being inaugurated as president. And then, when that plan failed, after the assassination of the Chilean commander-in-chief that the United States was behind, General René Schneider [i.e., the US had Schneider assassinated because he refused to go along with a coup], Kissinger then went to Nixon and said, “Allende is now president. The State Department thinks we can coexist with him, but I want you to make sure you tell everybody in the U.S. government that we cannot, that we cannot let him succeed, because he has legitimacy. He is democratically elected. And suppose other governments decide to follow in his footstep, like a government like Italy? What are we going to do then? What are we going to say when other countries start to democratically elect other Salvador Allendes? We will—the world balance of power will change,” he wrote to Nixon in a secret document, “and our interests in it will be changed fundamentally.”

He [Nixon] had aides who were saying to him, “It’s unbecoming for the United States to intervene in a country where we are not—our national security interests are not threatened.” And he pushed them away. “Nope, we can’t—we can’t let this imitative phenomena—we have to stop Allende from being successful.” He had aides that came to him the day after the coup and said, “I’m getting reports that there’s 10,000 bodies in the streets. People are being slaughtered.” And he said, “Go tell Congress that this new military regime is better for our interests than the old government in Chile.” And we have this fabulous document of him talking to Pinochet, a meeting in 1976, in which his aides have told him, “You should tell Pinochet to stop violating human rights.” And instead he says to Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende. We want to support you, not hurt you.

Never forget when the terrorists came to America.

Never forget when they came from America.

Posted in Latin America, September 11, terrorism | Comments Off

The Upside Down World

Posted by Charles II on July 21, 2013

An open letter by a number of LatAm experts:

The supposed “irony” of whistle-blower Edward Snowden seeking asylum in countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela has become a media meme.

The media has never noted the “irony” of the many thousands of people who have taken refuge in the United States, which is currently torturing people in a secret prison at Guantanamo, and regularly kills civilians in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries. Nor has the press noted the “irony” of refugees who have fled here from terror that was actively funded and sponsored by the U.S. government, e.g. from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and other countries.

But in fact the “irony” that U.S. journalists mention is fantastically exaggerated.  It is based on the notion that the governments of Venezuela under Chávez (and now Maduro) and Ecuador under Correa have clamped down on freedom of the press. Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government…

Yes, the Venezuelan government’s communications authorities let the RCTV channel’s broadcast license expire in 2007. This was not a “shut down”… Even José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch – a fierce critic of Venezuela – has said that “lack of renewal of the contract [broadcast license], per se, is not a free speech issue.”…

A July 10th piece from the Washington Post’s editorial board – which has never hid its deep hatred of Venezuela, Ecuador and other left governments in Latin America – describes another supposed grave instance of the Venezuelan government clamping down on press freedoms. The editorial, which was given greater publicity through Boing Boing and others, describes the case of journalist Nelson Bocaranda, who is credited with breaking the news of Chávez’s cancer in June 2011. The Post champions Bocaranda as a “courage[ous]” “teller of truth” and dismisses the Venezuelan government’s “charges” against him as “patently absurd.” In fact, Bocaranda has not been charged with anything; the Venezuelan government wants to know whether Bocaranda helped incite violence following the April 14 presidential elections, after which extreme sectors of the opposition attacked Cuban-run health clinics and homes and residences of governing party leaders, and in which some nine people were killed – mostly chavistas.

In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa has been widely condemned in the U.S. media – in much reporting as well as commentary – for suing a prominent journalist, Emilio Palacio, for defamation. The defamatory content was, in fact, serious. It relates to a 2010 incident in which Correa was first assaulted and then later held captive by rebelling police in what many observers deemed an attempt at a coup d’etat. Military forces ultimately rescued Correa. But in a February 2011 column referring to the episode, Palacio alleged that Correa had committed “crimes against humanity,” and that he had ordered the military forces to fire on the hospital where he was being held at the time. So Correa sued Palacio for defamation and won.

Many commentators have cited Reporters Without Borders and other media watchdog groups’ criticisms of Ecuador’s proposed new “Organic Law of Communication.”

Organizations such as RSF [Reporters Without Borders] and Freedom House are supposed to be impartial arbiters of press freedom around the world and are rarely subject to scrutiny. Yet both have taken funding from the U.S. government and/or U.S.-government supported organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (which was set up to conduct activities “much of [which]” the “CIA used to fund covertly,” as the Washington Post reported at the time, and which also provided funding and training to organizations involved in the afore-mentioned 2002 Venezuelan coup) and other “democracy promotion” groups. The NED has spent millions of dollars in Venezuela and Ecuador in recent years to support groups opposed to the governments there…

What an upside down world, when poor countries like Ecuador and Venezuela actually have more real press freedom than a rich country like the US. In Venezuela, the press may be afraid of the government, a little bit, at least. In the US, the press delivers the government’s point of view, or at least the viewpoint of cranky billionaires who are trying to take charge of the government.

And we call ourselves free.

By the way, the latest rankings by Reporters Without Borders have us at #32. That’s the Reporters Sans Frontiers that accepts payments from the US government.

Posted in Latin America, media, Media machine | 2 Comments »

Snowden in Oz; Brazilian fallout continues; FISA court operates lawlessly; Susan Webber Wright resurfaces

Posted by Charles II on July 9, 2013

RT:

Ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has disclosed his first set of documents outlining Australia’s role in NSA surveillance programs, picking out four facilities in the country that contribute heavily to US spying.

The locations of dozens of the US’s and associated countries signal collection sites have been revealed by Snowden, who leaked classified National Security Agency maps to US journalist Glenn Greenwald, which were then published in the Brazilian newspaper “O Globo.”

The sites all play a role in the collection of data and interception of internet traffic and telecommunications on a global level.

Australian centers involved in the NSA’s data collection program, codenamed X-Keyscore, include Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in central Australia and three Australian Signals Directorate facilities: the Shoal Bay Receiving Station in the country’s north, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility on the west coast, and the naval communications station HMAS Harman outside the capital, Canberra.

New Zealand also plays a role, with the Government Security Communications Bureau facility at Waihopai, on the northern point of South Island, also contributing to the program.

X-Keyscore is described as a “national Intelligence collection mission system” by US intelligence expert William Arkin, according to Australian newspaper ‘Age.’ It processes all signals prior to being delivered to various “production lines” that deal with more specific issues including the exploration of different types of data for close scrutiny.

The different subdivisions are entitled Nucleon (voice), Pinwale (video), Mainway (call records) and Marina (internet records).

Speaking of O Globo, several articles have appeared.
Brazil should offer Snowden asylum, Brazilian senators argue:

Senator Requião (PMDB-PR) called the whistleblower a “Hero” and lamented that other countries on the continent have offered asylum to Snowden, while Brazil, which was the target of espionage, did not. Senator Eduardo Suplicy (PT-SP) supported the complaint of his colleague.

Glenn Greenwald, Roberto Kaz and Roberto José Casado:

One aspect that stands out in the documents is that, according to them, the United States does not seem to be interested only in military affairs but also in trade secrets – “oil” in Venezuela and “energy” in Mexico, according to a listing produced NSA in the first half of this year (see above).

Colombia was the second priority target in Latin America over the past five years – after Brazil and Mexico – in spying activity of the National Security Agency. Agency documents,

Over the weekend, Eric Lichtblau of the NYT reported on the FISA court and how it produces unreviewable decisions based on the presentation by one side, the government:

Created by Congress in 1978 as a check against wiretapping abuses by the government, the court meets in a secure, nondescript room in the federal courthouse in Washington. All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and 10 of them were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post did a brilliant segment on the FISA court on Maddow. He named (8:05m) the judges: Reggie Walton, Rosemary Collyer, Claire Eagan, Martin Feldman, Thomas Hogan, Mary McLaughlin, Michael Mosman, Dennis Saylor, Susan Wright, and James Zagel. Susan Webber Wright is the judge involved in the torment of Susan McDougal in Whitewater, as well as the Paula Jones trial.

What are the odds that one of the linchpins of the assault on democracy that culminated in the impeachment of Bill Clinton would end up on the FISA court, free to issue opinions unreviewable by the Congress or the Supreme Court, decisions that bear on the basic liberties of Americans and which the FISA court has issued–without listening to any opposing party–like a rubber stamp?

Posted in Brazil, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 4 Comments »

Ecuador’s London embassy is bugged

Posted by Charles II on July 3, 2013

Estelle Shirbon, Reuters reports that the Foreign Minister of Ecuador has reported finding a microphone inside the London Ecuador office.

Prajap Chatterjee at Corpwatch has the only decent article on this story:

Spy equipment from the Surveillance Group Limited, a British private detective agency based in Worcester, England, has been found in the Ecuadorean embassy in London …

At a press conference in Quito this afternoon, Ricardo Patiño, the foreign minister of Ecuador, held up a photo of a “spy microphone” that was found on June 14 inside a small white box that was placed in an electrical outlet behind a bookshelf. The device contained a telephone SIM card allowing it to broadcast any conversations that it picked up.

Nobody has yet come forward to claim the device but a casual web search reveals that the Surveillance Group boasts of its ability to install tracking devices anywhere.

“We can justifiably claim to be the only company in the world to offer an internationally accredited, covert camera construction, concealment and deployment course,” a company website claims. “We can provide a range of bespoke, unmanned, covert camera options to gather vital video evidence in the most challenging environment or scenarios. The cameras can further be supported by the use of micro tracking devices for deployment with customer property or vehicles.”

The listening device is not the only way that Ecuador suspects that it is being monitored. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week quoted extensively from email correspondence between aides of President Rafael Correa, revealing that someone was hacking internal government communications.

The Journal said it has obtained the emails from Univision Networks, a U.S. based Spanish TV network, but Wikileaks says that the U.S. government could well have provided them with the raw material.

Posted in Latin America, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 7 Comments »

Kerry is a lost cause

Posted by Charles II on June 5, 2013

You may recall that former Guatemalan president Rios Montt was convicted of mass murder for directing the massacre of the Ixil Indians, part of the mass murder of 250,000 people in the roughly 40-year repression initiated by and abetted by the US. In the course of Montt’s trial, the bloody role of current Guatemalan president Otto Fernando Perez Molina emerged. The judge and prosecutor received very public death threats, but they and the witnesses bravely carried the trial to its inevitable end: Montt was convicted.

Then the Constitutional Court, presumably acting at the behest of Perez Molina and the other mass murderers who have not faced justice, arbitrarily reached in and annulled Montt’s conviction. Montt is unlikely to face any punishment greater than the inconvenience of having to go to court. And so Perez Molina is off the hook, too.

And so this is how John Kerry, meeting with Perez Molina, greeted him:

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Muchas gracias. Estoy encantando de estar aqui en Guatemala y (inaudible) con el Presidente Perez Molina. Gracias.

I want to begin, if I may, by expressing the condolences of all Americans for the loss of life of nine Guatemalans in Oklahoma City in the tornado last month. We know that that is a deep pain for the families, and I bring you the President’s condolences and the condolences of the American people.

… Let me begin by congratulating you, Mr. President, on the enormous progress that you have made with respect to your justice system, the strengthening of your justice system, the independence of that system. And obviously, we are appreciative for your reciprocal law enforcement initiatives that benefit both of us we believe.

I also would express our appreciation for the way in which you have led your internal – your security efforts and particularly citizen protection efforts.

I also want to thank you for your leadership with respect to the professionalization of police, which is very important, and also your efforts to make sure that we live up to the standards of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. Needless to say, that is so important to Guatemala’s standing on a global basis and we appreciate your efforts.

I realize that diplomacy involves not saying things publicly that would lead to an irreconcilable break. But Kerry has just congratulated Perez Molina for having turned the justice system into a sham, for having demonstrated that Guatemalan impunity extends to confessing the crime and walking undisturbed away.

John Kerry was a man I deeply respected for a long time. He showed courage in battle and then he showed the courage to say that the war in which he fought was wrong.

And now, he’s saying that everything he said and did before was an opportunistic lie.

Posted in Democrats as cancer, impunity, Latin America, State Department | Comments Off

Like most wars, this one’s a failure. End it.

Posted by Charles II on May 19, 2013

Jamie Doward, The Guardian:

European governments and the Obama administration are this weekend studying a “gamechanging” report on global drugs policy that is being seen in some quarters as the beginning of the end for blanket prohibition.

Publication of the Organisation of American States (OAS) review, commissioned at last year’s Cartagena Summit of the Americas attended by Barack Obama, reflects growing dissatisfaction among Latin American countries with the current global policy on illicit drugs.

Posted in Latin America, War On Some Drugs | 2 Comments »

To great surprise: Rios Montt convicted of genocide. History is made.

Posted by Charles II on May 10, 2013

Just about a month ago, the genocidal president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina shut down the trial of the man who at that time was ordering the genocide done, Rios Montt. Now, via Meteor Blades at DK, some good news. Mike McDonald of Reuters reports that the trial concluded, and Rios Montt was convicted:

A Guatemalan court on Friday found former dictator Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest phase of the country’s 36-year civil war.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison on the genocide charge and 30 years for crimes against humanity. It was the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.

Rios Montt, 86, took power after a coup in 1982….

Prosecutors say Rios Montt turned a blind eye [actually, they said he designed the program] as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to try to rid Guatemala of leftist rebels during his 1982-1983 rule, the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as 250,000 people died.

When our leaders say that can’t get things done, remember that the judge and prosecutor in this case have been constantly threatened. That’s what political courage looks like.

Rios Montt will probably never face actual punishment. He is 86, he has powerful friends at higher levels in the court system (not to mention Guatemala’s president), and it’s not clear that the American government is on the side of justice. After all, the genocide could not have taken place without the active help of Ronald Reagan.

But history has been made. For the first time, a mass murderer has been tried by the population he abused. Caps off to the brave people who used peaceful means to end and finally discredit Rios Montt’s violent reign.
_____
The inestimable Robert Parry reminds us that this makes Ronald Reagan an accessory to mass murder:

U.S. intelligence officers in the region also kept the Reagan administration abreast of the expanding slaughter. For instance, according to one “secret” cable from April 1981 — and declassified in the 1990s — the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban.

On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas. A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.”

Despite these atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters in May 1981 to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that Carter and Congress had imposed.

What the documents from the Reagan Library make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres – as the U.S. press corps typically reported – but was fully onboard with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”

Posted in Good Things, Latin America | 3 Comments »

A medley of meddling: US undermines democracy throughout Latin America

Posted by Charles II on May 1, 2013

The first link is actually from 2010, but it’s an important one that I had missed.

Mark Weisbrot:

The United States actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organizing a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the U.S. government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington.

Weisbrot, April 20th:

Recent events indicate that the Obama administration has stepped up its strategy of “regime change” against the left-of-center governments in Latin America, promoting conflict in ways not seen since the military coup that Washington supported in Venezuela in 2002. The most high-profile example is in Venezuela itself, during the past week. As this goes to press, Washington has grown increasingly isolated in its efforts to destabilize the newly elected government of Nicolas Maduro.

But Venezuela is not the only country to fall prey to Washington’s efforts to reverse the electoral results of the past 15 years in Latin America. It is now clear that last year’s ouster of President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay was also aided and abetted by the United States government. In a brilliant investigative work for Agência Pública, journalist Natalia Viana shows that the Obama administration funded the principal actors involved in the “parliamentary coup” against Lugo. Washington then helped organize international support for coup.

Daniel Kovalik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

I just returned from Venezuela where I was one of 170 international election observers from around the world, including India, Brazil, Great Britain, Argentina, South Korea and France. Among the observers were two former presidents (of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic), judges, lawyers and high-ranking officials of national electoral councils.

What we found was a transparent, reliable, well-run and thoroughly audited electoral system.

Dawn Paley, Upside Down World:

There’s a new President in Latin America….

Horacio Cartes is his name,

Cartes’ link to drug traffickers was reported in the New York Times, and his implication in money laundering has been amply documented. “Through the utilization of a [Drug Enforcement Administration] [Buenos Aires Country Office] cooperating source and other DEA undercover personnel, agents have infiltrated CARTES’ money laundering enterprise, an organization believed to launder large quantities of United States currency generated through illegal means, including through the sale of narcotics, from the [Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil] to the United States,” according to a State Department cable leaked by Wikileaks. As if that wasn’t enough, a recent report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealed that a bank owned by Cartes opened a secret locale in the offshore tax-haven of the Cook Islands.

Posted in Brazil, Latin America, State Department, Venezuela | Comments Off

 
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