Workers Defend “Recovered Factories”

by Yeidy Rosa

When Luis Zanon decided to abandon the ceramic factory in Argentina’s southern province of Neuquen, over which his family had held legal ownership since 1984, the factory’s debt was more than $170 million. Following Argentina’s economic collapse in 2001, the Zanon family left the country, accessing foreign accounts that had accumulated millions, and presumably leaving the factory to become a forgotten warehouse with broken windows, overgrown weeds and rusty machinery.

But 266 out of the 331 employees of the Zanon factory–some of whom had worked there for more than 15 years, and all of whom were owed months in back pay–had a more creative response. They would continue going to work every day, producing the tiles and running the factory themselves. In place of the strike, where labor is withheld in protest, Zanon’s workers opted for re-inventing forms of labor and counter-power, where organizing emerged out of participation in lived experience.

Today, Argentina’s “recovered factory “movement includes more than 200 businesses that have been successfully producing without owners or bosses, incorporating more than 10,000 otherwise unemployed or underemployed workers. Threats of eviction, kidnapings, police violence, terror by hired gangs, direct opposition from local politicians and apathy on the part of Argentina’s current president, Nestor Kirchner, are all obstacles to the movement–and constant reminders of a weak transition to democracy from the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 until 1983.

As workers struggle to gain legal status for their cooperatives and full expropriation of the factories within a court system designed to protect private property, a network of solidarity has formed strong links despite the state’s repressive apparatus. A laboratory of democracy within the factories and their surrounding communities has emerged, where a concrete alternative to corporate capitalism has redefined success as the creation of work and social inclusion, rather than a measurement of profits.

The Argentinazo Crisis of 2001

The failure of the neo-liberal model is epitomized in the case of Argentina, as 20 years of unrestrained borrowing left the country with the world’s highest per-capita debt by the end of 2001. When the government defaulted on its $140 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and private lenders such as Bank of Boston and Citibank, the peso, pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar by President Carlos Menem (1989-1999), devalued 70%–forcing half of the country’s 37 million residents below the poverty line overnight. Once the jewel of Latin American economic prosperity, Argentina found itself with unemployment rates as high as 25 percent. Menem had doubled the country’s gross domestic product by privatizing almost all national assets. Despite a rise in unemployment due to downsizing brought about by privatization, banks continued to loan Argentina billions of dollars. On December 19, 2001, the citizens of Argentina woke up to find their bank accounts frozen. With this, Argentina’s working middle class nearly evaporated.

Over the next two days, mass protests and demonstrations were staged by groups of workers and large sections of the (now former) middle class, as a shocked nation poured onto the streets of all the major cities. Over the next week, the populace forced out a total of four presidents. By refusing to wait until the next election to vote the president out, the citizens of Argentina exercised horizontal accountability in its ultimate form. “Que se vayan todos!”( “They must all go!”) was the popular cry. Argentina was holding accountable not only individual politicians, but the system itself. Notwithstanding, the country was left devastated, as police repression left 35 dead, thousands wounded and another 4,500 imprisoned. Shortly after, civil society spontaneously organized popular assemblies and elaborate barter systems termed trueque, and the piquetero movement of unemployed workers organized protests throughout the country.

The Workers Take Over

Referred to as occupied or recuperated factories, worker-run factories, grass-roots cooperatives, factories under worker control, self-organized and self-managed factories or democratic workplaces, the recovered factories of Argentina are a concrete economic alternative to corporate capitalism. The pattern is typical: The owner, after a period of cutting back on worker wages and benefits in order to cut on costs and minimize debt, locks out workers and abandons the property, perhaps filing bankruptcy and liquidating other assets in order to salvage whatever possible. The workers, defending their jobs and livelihood, organize and prepare to occupy the property, opting to get the factory running again, rather than face unemployment. Working together with other organized sectors of the community, the workers gain support from students, unions and members of the unemployed worker’s movement known as piqueteros. Together, they stage demonstrations, camp out on the property and produce literature regarding their struggle. The space is then recovered and production begins. When state forces attempt to evict the workers, the aforementioned groups unite and collectively prevent police entry. The internal organization of the factories is based on horizontalism, direct democracy and autonomy.

This process is not limited to factories, as other recovered workspaces include clinics, book publishers, hotels, supermarkets and bakeries. A working-class solution and successful act of resistance, it has not come with ease and does not enjoy certainty or security. Legal attacks, death threats and physical harm have come to workers at many of the 200 recuperated businesses operating without bosses, owners or foremen since idle workplaces began to be taken over in the late 1990s. Yet of those recovered since the 2001 economic crisis, which left 3,900 bankrupt factories in Buenos Aires alone, 60% have taken on more personnel, employees earn more, and production is higher than at the time of abandonment.

Though unique circumstances surround each case, the dominant pattern within recovered factories is the practice of direct democracy and direct action, with decisions made in a general assembly and each worker having a vote and a voice. Some are demanding to be recognized as co-operatives while others want state ownership, but all demand a say in what happens to the bankrupt businesses.

Perhaps the most crucial issue the movement has brought to light is that of legitimate ownership: What claims do workers have over factories and the machinery within them, and how does this challenge normative notions of private property? This takes on a particular relevance, since part of Menem’s neo-liberal policies was to heavily subsidize businesses such as those now “recovered” by the workers. In this way, the factories were built and run with public funds and on public land, leading workers and community members to consider themselves the subsidizers of the factories and the machines therein.

Though the government of Argentina gave many recovered businesses temporary two-year permits to function, these have all expired. The Federal Supreme Court of Argentina has ordered the eviction of workers, offering instead government-sponsored micro-enterprise projects for 150 pesos a week (roughly US$50). In the recovered factories, where all are paid equally, a worker may earn up to 800 pesos. The workers’ response has been to lobby the courts to recognize the workers’ administration as legitimate and legal. Within the present legal limbo, it is impossible for workers to secure bank loans for machinery repair or replacement costs. In defending the autonomous management of their workplaces, the workers are also petitioning the courts for a one-time government subsidy of US$5,000 per job to cover start-up costs.

The Case of FaSinPat

In Neuquen, the Zanon ceramic factory has been renamed FaSinPat by its workers, short for “Fabrica Sin Patrones” (“Factory Without Bosses”). It is the best-known and most politicized of all the recovered factories, producing without an owner or boss since March 2002. The Zanon family, who gave Italian names to the tiles they sold, had never paid taxes, had exploited workers and had stolen land and raw resources from the region’s indigenous Mapuche community. Under the management of the Zanon family, the factory had between 25 and 30 serious occupational accidents per month and one fatality per year.

Since the workers recovered the factory, working relationships have been reinvented; elected committees oversee the running of the plant and all decisions are made in assembly on general consensus, everyone has the right to be heard, every worker has a vote, all workers are paid equally, and there have been no occupational health and safety crises. There have been 170 new hires as of April 2005, production is higher than when the Zanon family locked out the workers, and the tiles now have Mapuche names in honor of the factory’s neighbors and allies.

The workers keep the community informed and involved, and a space has been created within the factory for meetings, art exhibits, musical events and community gatherings. The FaSinPat workers have resisted five eviction attempts with the solidarity and help of the Mapuche, neighbors, students, workers from the piquetero movement, and even the prisoners of the nearby Prison #11–who shared their food rations with workers when they initially recovered the factory. They have also received support from the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo–the organization of mothers and grandmothers of some of the 35,000 students, workers, union organizers and activists who disappeared during the “Dirty War” waged by the military dictatorship of 1976-1983, who have marched in Buenos Aires’ central Plaza de Mayo since 1977, demanding to know the fates of their loved ones.

Each eviction attempt has been ordered by the Federal Supreme Court and, each time, the police have been met by thousands of people defending the workers. But the eviction attempts have become increasingly violent. On March 4, a worker was kidnapped and tortured in a green Ford Falcon–the same make and model that security operatives used during the Dirty War.

For one week this past April, bids were accepted on the factory in a court-ordered process for paying back the debt as an alternative to declaring the company bankrupt. Under Argentina’s new bankruptcy law such “cram-down” bidding makes it easier for private (often foreign) companies to take over Argentine assets. When the week passed and nobody had placed a bid, the workers at FaSinPat considered it a step forward in their struggle to be legally recognized as a cooperative. But the judge who announced the cram down suddenly made an exception, accepting a bid that came in after the deadline. The bid came from a company named Ocabamba SA. Its owners are the son and wife of Luis Zanon.

Moving Forward

Some recovered factory workers have adopted the cry, “Stop Asking.” They have shown what happens when we stop asking and start doing. Their creativity has redefined their social and political relation to Argentina and the world, deconstructed hierarchical forms of production and social organization and challenged norms of legitimate ownership and private property–all through their refusal to allow their workplace to be taken from them. Their positive act of working has had the power to disrupt (neo-liberal) business as usual. Their experimental alternative to profit-driven production in their laboratory of democracy holds out the hope of new economic relations across the globe.

Shortly after his election in 2003, President Kirchner was visited by IMF managing director Rodrigo Rato. During the visit Rato said to Kirchner, “At the IMF we have a problem called Argentina.” Kirchner replied, “I have a problem called 15 million poor people.” Perhaps now, what is needed is for President Kirchner to act on the human rights platform he ran on and recognize the solution that Argentina’s own workers have forged.


Yeidy Rosa has a master’s degree in human rights with a specialty in Latin America. She is currently the administrative associate in the national office of the War Resisters League in New York City. This article was originally published in the June issue of Nonviolent Activist, the magazine of the War Resisters League, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012, (212)228-0450,


Obreros de Zanon: Zanon/FaSinPat workers website

Grassroots Toolkit for Action on supporting the workers of Zanon/FaSinPat

Online petition for the Zanon/FaSinPat workers

See also:

WW4 REPORT on Argentina’s political crisis:

WW4 REPORT on the legacy of Argentina’s “Dirty War”:

WW4 REPORT on the Mapuche struggle on the Chilean side of the border:


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution


#. 111. July 2005

Lawlessness Brings Call for New U.S. Military Role
by Kody Emmanuel

Workers Defend “Recovered Factories”
by Yeidy Rosa

Michel Aoun and the Sectarian Shadow
by Bilal El-Amine with David Bloom

Yeah, Bush Lied–So What Do We Do About It?
by Bill Weinberg

Muslims Still Targeted for Police, FBI Harassment
by Thomas Tracy and Stephen Witt

From Weekly News Update on the Americas:


Book Review:
An Algerian Immigrant’s Kafkaesque Journey in Post-9-11 America


“The History of the present King [George] is a history of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States… He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance… He has affected to render the Military independent of, and superior to the Civil Power. He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation: For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us; For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit… For depriving us in many cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury… For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences… He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People… In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.”

Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, July 4, 1776

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Continue Reading#. 111. July 2005 

Dear WW4 REPORT Readers:

UPDATE: 18 readers have donated so far for a total of 550 USD. Please consider a donation today!

Dear WW4 REPORT Readers:

Our fund-raising drive has been forced to go into extra innings due to considerably underwhelming results. We really want to know that our readers care about what we do, so please—either send something, or answer the exit poll or otherwise send us feedback. To provide some incentive, and apropos of our story this issue on the politics of the Srebrenica massacre ten years later, we are offering free to anyone who sends ten dollars or more a copy of War at the Crossroads: An Historical Guide Through the Balkan Labyrinth by Bill Weinberg and Dorie Wilsnack. Printed in pamphlet form with maps and drawings by the great Belgrade political cartoonist Miro Stefanovic, this primer covers the history of the once-and-future Yugoslavia from before the Roman Empire to the Kosovo crisis and NATO intervention of 1999—all in concise, easy-to-read form. This was a limited-run edition, and a sure-shot for collector’s itemhood. Don’t miss this great opportunity!

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July 10, 2005

Continue ReadingDear WW4 REPORT Readers: 


An Algerian Immigrant’s Kafkaesque Journey in Post-9-11 America

by Bill Weinberg

Still Moments
A Story About Faded Dreams & Forbidden Pictures
Zighen Aym
ZAWP, POB 411, Mossville, IL 61552-411

Of all the nightmares which have befallen immigrants from the Islamic world since the September 11 attacks, those related in this short self-published memoir, Still Moments, are far from the most egregious. But the nearly surreal ironies of this story, and the straightforward, almost innocent way it is told, make it a powerful testament to how freedom is contracting as our leaders wage wars in the name of expanding freedom. As if synchronicity had conspired to drive home this point, the critical incident on which the tale turns takes place on Route 66, fabled in song (Chuck Berry) and story (Jack Kerouac) as a symbol of the uniquely American freedom of the Open Road.

The (probably pseudonymous) protagonist, Zighen Aym, who tells his tale in the first person, is a middle-class professional working as a mechanical engineer for an unnamed company in central Illinois. He is a husband and father, a naturalized US citizen, and had been in the country seven years at the time of the 9-11 disaster. He was the archetype of the “good” immigrant who really believed that the USA represents freedom. He had left his native Algeria to escape violence and repression, which was endemic there in the 1990s, and doubly targeted at members of his own people, the Berber ethnic minority.

News from home never failed to confirm the wisdom of his decision to leave. In May 1997, his young sister-in-law was killed when a bomb exploded at her high school in Algiers. But some of the salient incidents which prompted Aym to leave his homeland would take on an ironic significance as he was “profiled” as a potential terrorist by the FBI for the most unassuming acts after 9-11.

The first came in 1986, when he was vacationing with a friend at the Mediterranean port of Bejaia. An avid photographer, he began taking pictures of the port below from a scenic vista point. This activity came to the attention of a police officer. Aym was detained at the local police station, interrogated about his purposes in photographing the harbor, and given a verbal drumming about the threat of espionage and subversion from the imperialist powers. This degree of paranoia over something as innocent as photography helped inform his decision to leave the country years later.

Another concerned the food shortages which were chronic, despite the oil boom of the 1980s. After waiting in a long line for hours to triumphantly return home with ten pounds of garbanzo beans and four pounds of butter, he began to realize how his standards for material security had eroded.

Early one morning in October 2002, Aym, now living happily in Illinois, was driving along Route 66 with his camera, his eye drawn by images that could make for interesting shots, unaware of how his comfortable world was about to change. First he stops to shoot dew-glistening spider webs interlacing between corn stalks in a farmer’s field. Then—fatefully—he notices a pair of railroad tracks, “their flat surfaces reflecting sunlight and shining like two silver lines drawn into the horizon.” His interest is purely aesthetic, not at all technical: “The scene of converging rail tracks and obsolete telephone poles was a harmonious display of increasing distance and decreasing height and span; a natural 3-D visual agreement.” He again stops the car and starts clicking.

As at the port at Bejaia 15 years earlier, this activity draws the attention of the local constabulary. A state trooper pulls up, questions him about what he is doing and where he is from, asks for ID, runs a check. Aym is finally allowed to go. Weeks later, the FBI issues an alert warning of terrorist attacks on Amtrak.

In January 2003, Aym receives a call at his home from the FBI. They request an interview to discuss his “love of trains.” (The assumption seems to be he is either a terrorist or a train-spotting geek.) “I don’t love trains,” he answers. He is aware he can refuse the interview, but also aware that this would only invite an FBI visit at his workplace, which would be a public embarrassment and could even jeopardize his job. He realizes his official rights are somewhat irrelevant. He agrees to the interview.

“Even if the FBI suspects me of being a terrorist, it is better to be in America than Algeria,” he jokes to his worried wife. “Here, at least I can buy garbanzo beans at any time of the day and night.”

In the following days, as he frets over his impending interview, contacts the ACLU and is referred to a lawyer, he contemplates how freedom is diminishing in both his native and adoptive countries—and for related reasons. In the ’90s, as the Algerian regime turned post-socialist and came to be dominated by a “mafia” of corrupt generals, the new populist mantle was assumed by the Islamic fundamentalists. Their electoral victory in 1992 only prompted the regime to annul the elections and declare military rule—which in turn prompted the Islamists to take up arms, precipitating nearly ten years of civil war in which 200,000 Algerians lost their lives. And neither side—the military mafia or the Islamist guerillas—saw the Berbers as anything other than a dangerous threat to national unity.

The resurgence of a Berber movement for human and cultural rights came, unfortunately, just as 9-11 was about to transform the political landscape for the worse. On June 14, 2001, over 1 million Berbers marched in Algiers to protest the killing of an unarmed youth by the police in Kabylia, the Berber region. Ten were killed as police attacked the protesters. The White House said nothing. On July 12, 2001, Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was at the White House for an official visit; a small group of Berber protesters stood outside with a banner reading “ALGERIAN PRESIDENT AND GENERALS TO THE HAGUE.” A few weeks later, Algeria awarded a $700 million contract to Halliburton subsidiary KBR to help modernize the country’s oil industry. After 9-11, the US would step up arms sales and military-intelligence cooperation with the Algerian regime, and human and minority rights in Algeria would become more of an inconvenience than ever for Algiers and Washington alike.

So Aym’s people face persecution in his homeland precisely because they are not Arab, Algeria’s dominant ethnicity. And the Islamists and government are seen as equal threats to Berber freedom and identity. Yet in Illinois, he is profiled as an Arab/Islamic terrorist.

Aym’s interview with the FBI takes place at a federal building in a Bloomington suburb named (more irony) Normal. Once ensconced in the office of the interrogating agent, he offers to do a Google search of his own name, which would turn up freelance work confirming that he is, in fact, a photographer. The agent declines, instead asking a barrage of banal questions: “Do you know anyone, associates or friends, who may be working for any terrorist government or terrorist organization?” “Are you a terrorist or linked to a terrorist organization?”

Writes Aym: “I had a feeling of deja vu: I saw the Algerian policeman at the police station in 1986. The agent’s blank face and small but muscular body made him an extension of the repressive system. How interesting to see that repression and love of power easily cross cultural, national, and religious boundaries!”

After answering a requisite “no” to the agent’s questions, he is free to leave—until, in one final flourish of paranoid sleuthwork, the agent notices the decal on Aym’s notepad and demands he explain it. It reads “UBL,” for Ultimate Band List, a music e-store. The agent accepts this explanation. Aym is confused until his lawyer, who was allowed to be present for the interview, says to the agent, “I see that you have the picture of UBL here.” He indicates a WANTED poster for Usama bin Laden—using the FBI’s unorthodox spelling of the first name.

“I was stunned when I realized how naive I was,” Aym writes. “Both my lawyer and the agent had made the link between my UBL decal and Usama Bin Laden. My lawyer used the initials UBL as if he purposely wanted to expose my naivete to me.”

The interview had lasted an hour, but of course felt like an eternity. Upon leaving, Aym considers “heading north to get my kicks on Route 66 one more time. Instead, I drove home.”

The story is told in a brief 65 pages, and does often come across as slightly naive. But a lot of meaning is packed into this slim volume—about lost innocence, about the paradoxes of identity, and about the diminishing prospects for human freedom in both the United States of America and on planet Earth generally in the long aftermath of September 11.


Zighen Aym’s homepage


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingPARANOIA ON ROUTE 66 


from Weekly News Update on the Americas


On June 30 the US Senate voted 54-45 to approve the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a pact largely eliminating tariffs on about $32 billion in annual trade between Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US. Also on June 30, the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee voted 30-11 to send the measure to the full House for a vote. The House debate will probably start on July 11, when Congress returns from its Independence Day recess.

DR-CAFTA, which is strongly backed by the administration of US president George W. Bush, is expected to face serious opposition in the House, especially from Democrats. DR-CAFTA opponents are urging activists to communicate with their representatives during the recess and pressure them to vote against it. The Stop CAFTA Coalition has set up a website ( with talking points and additional background. So far only the legislatures of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have approved the measure. (Radio Mundo Real, July 1; NYT, July 1; Campaign for Labor Rights Action Alert, June 30)

On June 29, the day before the Senate vote, the Associated Press wire service revealed that for more than a year the US Labor Department suppressed studies it had commissioned from the International Labor Rights Fund on labor conditions in Central American countries. “In practice,” one study said, “labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent.” The Bush administration claims Central America has made progress on working conditions, and is using this as an argument in favor of DR-CAFTA. The Labor Department, which calls the studies “unsubstantiated” and “biased,” initially barred the contractor from distributing them and ordered it to remove them from its website. Under a new agreement, the International Labor Rights Fund can now distribute the studies, but it will not receive $250,000 of the $937,000 it was to be paid for the work. (Miami Herald, June 30 from AP; NYT, July 1)

In the middle of June former Wal-Mart Stores executive James Lynn filed a suit in Arkansas against the company charging that he was fired in 2002 “for truthfully reporting the abysmal working conditions in Central American factories utilized by Wal-Mart and for refusing to comply with Wal-Mart’s demand that he certify the factories in order to get Wal-Mart’s goods to market.” Wal-Mart says it fired Lynn for “having inappropriate contact with a woman who directly reported to him,” but it acknowledges it spied on him. Wal-Mart says several factories that Lynn reported on subsequently corrected their problems. But Charles Kernaghan of the New York-based National Labor Committee told the New York Times that workers at one of the factories, located in Honduras, reported continuing problems as recently as April of this year. (NYT, July 1)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 3


Unknown persons raided the Union of Education Workers of Guatemala (STEG) office in Guatemala City some time between the evening of June 25 and the morning of June 27. The intruders stole a computer with extensive information on the National Assembly of Teachers’ programs and history; destroyed two other computers; spilled red paint on all the files and destroyed other papers; and painted red crosses on walls and desks. A desk drawer containing cash was left open, but the money was not stolen.

Unidentified vehicles began to park outside STEG’s office in March after the union joined other groups in demonstrating against DR-CAFTA. STEG has also opposed the Law of Concessions, a measure for the privatization of public resources, and has protested government corruption and human rights abuses. Social organizations, especially those that oppose DF-CAFTA, have been subject to a large number of break-ins this year. The Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA (GHRC-USA) is asking for appeals to Guatemalan president Oscar Berger Perdomo (fax +502-2-251-2218, and Attorney General Juan Luis Florido (fax +502 251 2218) to insure the safety of STEG members and to carry out a thorough investigation of the break-in. (GHRC-USA Urgent Action 6/28/05; Guatemala Hoy, June 30)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 3


On June 5, paramilitaries stabbed and wounded Feliciano Pineda, a leader of the Montana Verde community in Gracias municipality, Lempira department in western Honduras. Pineda was left in critical condition with stab wounds to his face, neck, back, sides and hands, and a blow to his spine. Community members took Pineda to a hospital in Tegucigalpa, but despite his precarious state of health, agents from the General Department of Criminal Investigation (DGIC) transferred him in chains to the regional jail in Gracias. (Rights Action, June 10; Consejo Civico de Organizaciones Populares e Indigenas de Honduras-COPINH Urgent Alert, June 10/) The Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) points out that the DGIC is run by Napoleon Nazar, who in the 1980s belonged to an army death squad linked to the disappearance of more than 150 activists. (Prensa Latina, June 10)

The paramilitaries who shot Pineda have been identified by eyewitnesses as Delfino Reyes, Santos Reyes, Pablo Reyes and Cecilio Reyes, some of whom were involved in the Jan. 8, 2003, violent arrest and subsequent torture of Montana Verde Lenca indigenous council members Leonardo and Marcelino Miranda, as well as in legal proceedings as false witnesses against Montana Verde community leaders. The Miranda brothers remain jailed in Gracias since their arrest. (RA, June 10; COPINH Urgent Alert, June 10)

The four paramilitaries were briefly detained but were then granted conditional freedom by Gracias judge Atiliano Vasquez. Vasquez previously served as the private accusing lawyer in two politically motivated cases against Montana Verde community leaders; after becoming a judge, he was put in charge of all the Montana Verde cases and has consistently issued flawed rulings against community members. (RA, June 10)

COPINH is calling for messages of protest to President Ricardo Maduro (fax #504-221-4552, 221-4545, 221-4647); Supreme Court president Vilma Morales (504-233-8089, 234-2367); and Congress president Porfirio Lobo Sosa (504-238-6048, 222-3471, 237-0663). Rights Action also suggests contacting US ambassador to Honduras Larry Palmer (fax #504-236-9037); Honduran ambassador to the US Mario Miguel Canahuati (fax #202-966-9751,; and Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio Lopez (fax #504-232-6894,; with copies to COPINH at fax 504-783-0817,

On June 8, police and local judicial authorities carried out a violent eviction of the Lenca indigenous community of Golondrinas, in Marcala municipality, La Paz department. Police beat up and arrested dozens of community members, stole work tools and other property and bulldozed the entire community’s homes and property to the ground. The land had been abandoned for 25 years when the community began squatting it in May 2004, and although the National Agrarian Institute (INA) ruled that the lands belonged to the municipality of Marcala, they have now been transferred to a private construction company, ASOTRAMM. (RA, June 10; PL, June 10; Community Member’s Eyewitness Report posted on, June 15)

In other news, some 500 members of the gay and lesbian community of San Pedro Sula marched on June 4, demanding respect for their rights. (La Prensa, Honduras, June 5)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 19


Eight former employees of the Salvadoran Interior Ministry began a liquids-only hunger strike outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador on May 26 to demand severance pay. They were among 106 employees dismissed in December 2004 and denied severance pay because they worked on an annual contract and were not covered under laws against unjustified dismissal. Many had worked for the Salvadoran government for more than 20 years.

On June 23, some of the hunger strikers moved to the Legislative Assembly and occupied the chamber, causing the session to be suspended. William Huezo, president of the General Association of Public and Municipal Employees (AGEPYM), said the hunger strikers were in “critical health,” but he hoped Deputy Archbishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez would mediate so that they could win the payment of one month’s wages for each year they worked. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, June 19 from ACAN-EFE; El Diario de Hoy, San Salvador, June 24)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 26


Panama’s grassroots movements won a victory on June 27 in their fight against changes to the country’s Social Security Agency (CSS) when President Martin Torrijos and his council of ministers formally asked the National Assembly to approve a bill suspending the reform package for 90 days. The National Front for the Defense of Social Security (FRENADESSO)–representing thousands of construction workers, teachers, doctors and CSS workers, among other sectors–responded by immediately calling off the strike it began on May 27. The National Assembly unanimously approved the 90-day suspension of the CSS reforms on June 30, and Torrijos signed the suspension into law on July 1, exactly a month after he signed the bill enacting the reforms.

FRENADESSO had set suspension of the reforms as a condition for beginning a dialogue with the government over the measure’s more than 180 articles. The talks began on June 28, although FRENADESSO chose not to join them until the suspension of the reforms is officially enacted. Participants in the dialogue include government representatives, business associations, retiree organizations, unions and professional guilds. The Council of Rectors of Panama’s public and private universities is facilitating, with the Panama Bishop’s Conference and the National Ecumenical Committee acting as observers. The talks are scheduled to conclude on Aug. 29. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, June 28 from AP; EFE, June 30, July 1)

Weekly News Update in the Americas, July 3

Some 6,000 Panamanians (or 2,500 to 3,000, according to police) marched on June 16 in Panama City to demand the repeal of reforms to the Social Security Agency (CSS). During the march, police used tear gas to break up a roadblock set up by students, workers and CSS employees along the trans-isthmus road. Marches also took place in the cities of Colon and David. (EFE, June 16)

Weekly News Update in the Americas, June 19

On June 4, after a six-hour meeting by strike leaders, FRENADESSO urged Panamanians to reject a planned referendum on the broadening of the Panama Canal, free trade agreements and the Puebla-Panama Plan. (La Prensa, Panama, June 5)

Weekly News Update in the Americas, June 5

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #110


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On June 23, several armed assailants firing from a pickup truck shot and wounded Venezuelan campesino leader Braulio Alvarez in the community of Sabana de Parra, Pena municipality, Yaracuy state. Alvarez is a leader of the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front (FNCEZ); he also serves as a deputy to the Yaracuy State Legislative Council (CLEY) and as a regional leader of the National Tactical Command of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) led by President Hugo Chavez Frias. He was shot as he was driving home from a campesino meeting in Copa Redonda, Paez municipality, in Yaracuy. Alvarez was hit by two bullets, in the shoulder and leg; he was reported to be in stable condition after undergoing surgery, and was being transferred to Caracas for further medical treatment.

The FNCEZ is leading the struggle for agrarian reform in Venezuela, seeking to speed up distribution of unused lands to landless campesinos under the Land Law. Alvarez’s family and fellow campesino leaders believe the attack was a murder attempt. A few months ago landholder Vicente Lecuna said publicly that the land problems in Yaracuy state could be resolved with a shot to Alvarez’s head. More than 100 campesinos have been murdered since 2001, according to the FNCEZ, mostly by professional killers hired by large landowners. ( News, June 24; Radio Nacional de Venezuela, June 24; Prensa Latina, June 24) FCNEZ leader Luis Enrique Perez was murdered in Barinas state on March 19 or 20.

On May 4, hired killers shot to death Jose Luis Paz and his son-in-law, Julio Fernandez at their squatted homes in El Valle sector of the municipality of Machiques de Perija, Zulia state. The victims were indigenous campesinos, members of El Chamin agricultural cooperative who took over abandoned land over a year ago and began subsistence farming. The killers also fired at a neighbor, Favio Alvear, wounding him in the leg. Alvear said local ranchers had been threatening the squatters for some time. Dozens of campesinos protested the killings; the community fears more attacks. (Colombia Indymedia, May 6)

The National Land Institute (INTI) reports that the Venezuelan government has designated six large estates to be expropriated for redistribution to campesinos under the Land Law. The estates, totalling 284,267 hectares, are located in the states of Apure, Barinas, Bolivar and Zulia. (La Jornada, Mexico, June 21 from AFP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 26

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #109


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas

The Government Council of the Huaorani Nationality of the Ecuadoran Amazon (ONHAE) announced on July 1 that it will seek to block the Brazilian oil company Petrobras from entering the Yasuni National Park in northeastern Ecuador. Petrobras plans to carry out infrastructure projects this year in Block 31 of the protected park, in order to begin oil drilling there in 2006. ONHAE coordinator Ramon Huani said that the Huaorani have broken off relations with Petrobras and will not abide by an accord which the previous Huaorani leadership signed with the company last January, under which Petrobras would have spent $200,000 ayear for five years on development and social assistance projects. ONHAE said Petrobras didn’t fulfill its commitments, but the decision to rescind the agreement came mainly in response to pressure from the Huaorani base communities, particularly women. About 3,000 Huaorani live in the Ecuadoran Amazon, mostly in the provinces of Orellana, Napo and Pastaza. Most of the Yasuni National Park is in Orellana.

Alicia Cahuiya, president of the Waorani Women’s Association (AMWAE), said her organization opposes oil exploration in the Yasuni National Park, and that Huaorani women want to keep their territory–and their subsistence farmland–free of contamination for their children. Cahuiya noted that oil companies have already polluted many rivers in the Amazon region, and no one is doing anything to clean them up. Cahuiya criticized the previous Huaorani government council for signing the accord with Petrobras without consulting the communities. AMWAE also opposes the planned construction by Petrobras of a highway along the Napo river; Cahuiya said it would bring “deforestation, disappearance of the forest animals and the introduction of bad western customs such as alcoholism and prostitution.” (El Comercio, Quito, July 1; Notimex, July 1; AFP, July 1)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 3

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #110


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On May 29 in Tocache province, in the Huallaga valley of San Martin in north central Peru, at least 3,500 campesino coca growers (cocaleros) armed with sticks surrounded a group of 230 police agents charged with carrying out coca leaf eradication operations. According to police, the resulting clash left 17 agents hurt–one by a bullet, the rest by beatings. Twenty cocaleros were injured; Tocache mayor Nancy Zagerra said three of them are in serious condition with bullet wounds. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 31, from DPA)

The 230 anti-drug police agents had arrived in the area on May 26, along with 50 workers from the Control and Reduction of Coca Crops in the Alto Huallaga (CORAH) project. On May 28, the anti-drug forces set up camp in the village of 5 de Diciembre, where according to cocalero leader Nancy Obregon they forced the campesinos from their homes and destroyed their crops, even after the campesinos showed them documents from the state-run National Coca Company (ENACO) demonstrating that the crops were legal. “They said those [documents] were no good and they threw everyone out. The people have had to sleep outside,” said Obregon. Outraged at the incident, Obregon organized nearly 4,000 cocaleros to confront the agents at their camp the next day. (La Republica, Lima, May 30)

On May 31 a representative of the Office of the Defender of the People, Manlio Alvarez Soto, traveled to Tocache from Tingo Maria, in neighboring Huanuco region, to meet with the cocaleros and gather information about the conflict. Alvarez also visited two of the wounded cocaleros in the Tingo Maria hospital, where they were taken for treatment. (LR, June 1) On June 3, some 6,000 cocaleros from Monzon and Alto Huallaga marched in Tingo Maria in support of the Tocache cocaleros. (LR, June 4) Obregon said the cocaleros will start an open-ended strike on June 27. (LR, May 30)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 5

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #110


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



from Weekly News Update on the Americas


Indigenous and campesino protests that had shaken Bolivia since May 16 continued on June 6 around demands for the nationalization of natural gas resources and the seating of a constitutional assembly. Nearly 100,000 people demonstrated in La Paz, gathering in San Francisco Plaza and spreading out even into wealthy neighborhoods. All the main cities were affected by demonstrations, and protesters set up 78 roadblocks around the country, cutting off transit to Chile and Peru and paralyzing some of the highways to Argentina and Paraguay. Campesinos occupied a branch of an oil pipeline, causing a suspension of pumping to Chile.

During the day President Carlos Mesa Gisbert fled the Palacio Quemado, the presidential residence in La Paz. He returned, but in the evening he announced his resignation. Mesa had offered his resignation on March 6, during previous protests, but Congress had refused it and the move was viewed as a political maneuver. This time there was little question the offer was for real. Elected vice president in 2002, Mesa became president on Oct. 17, 2003, when similar protests forced Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to resign in what is now known as the “first gas war.”

Congressional leaders arranged to meet on June 9 to accept Mesa’s resignation and choose a replacement. The meeting was to be held in the country’s constitutional capital, Sucre, in order to avoid the protests in La Paz and the nearby, largely indigenous city of El Alto. Under the Constitution, the next in line would be the Senate president, followed by the president of the Chamber of Deputies and then the head of the Supreme Court of Justice. It was clear that Senate President Hormando Vaca Diez, a right-winger who represents business interests in Santa Cruz department, would not be acceptable to the protesters, nor would Chamber of Deputies President Mario Cossio. Deputy Evo Morales, a leader of the coca growers (cocaleros) and of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, pushed for Vaca Diez and Cossio to step aside in favor of Supreme Court head Eduardo Rodriguez Veltze, who would be mandated to call early elections. Polls taken before the current protests showed Morales as the leading presidential candidate.

While politicians maneuvered in preparation for Congress’s June 9 meeting in Sucre, the protesters kept up the pressure. In La Paz and El Alto unions and community groups organized a popular assembly on June 8, according to Bolivian Workers Central (COB) leader Jaime Solares, who said there were plans for provisioning committees to deal with shortages caused by the roadblocks, and for self-defense committees, because of “information that there might be a coup from the right at any moment.” A campesino group close to Morales occupied seven oilfields in Santa Cruz department belonging to the Spanish corporation Repsol and the British firm BP; the occupation cut off oil shipments to the Chilean port of Arica. Felipe Quispe, leader of the Aymara indigenous group, told a Peruvian radio program that he would welcome a “civil war” in Bolivia that would finally settle the question of who should rule the country.

The protests followed Congress to the usually quiet city of Sucre on June 9. Contingents of campesinos, students and miners marched through the Plaza 25 de Mayo, setting off sticks of dynamite, while Vaca Diez tried to build support for his presidential bid in meetings near Yotala, a community 30 km from Sucre. In the afternoon a confrontation developed between police agents and the miners. Juan Coro Mayta, president of the March 27 Miners Cooperative, was killed by a bullet to the heart. When he learned of the protester’s death, Vaca Diez fled to the headquarters of the Sucre Battalion in the outlying El Tejar neighborhood and demanded military protection.

Top generals in La Paz spoke to Vaca Diez by cellphone, telling him that their position was “at all costs to avoid a confrontation between brothers,” according to an unidentified high-ranking military officer. “And he was reminded that we’d said the voice of the people had to be listened to, the popular demands.” Vaca Diez then returned to Sucre and agreed to step aside, as did Cossio. Congress met in the evening and named Eduardo Rodriguez president. Rodriguez promised to hold early elections and scheduled meetings with leaders of various social sectors.

As of June 10 supplies were beginning to arrive in La Paz and El Alto as protesters suspended roadblocks. Mercedes Condori, a member of the executive committee of the El Alto Federation of Neighborhood Committees (FEJUVE), said an assembly of neighborhood leaders had decided to give Rodriguez 72 hours to satisfy their demands: gas nationalization, a trial of former president Sanchez de Lozada and the seating of a constitutional assembly.

On June 7, the day after Mesa announced his resignation, US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Roger Noriega told reporters at the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: “The role of [Venezuelan] president [Hugo] Chavez in the events in Bolivia is obvious to the whole world. It’s really worrying.” Later in the day the US State Department attempted to back up Noriega’s statement with copies of news articles indicating that Evo Morales had expressed support for Chavez on various occasions. (La Jornada, Mexico, June 7 from AFP, DPA; June 8 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; June 9 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; June 10, 11/05 from correspondent)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 12


On June 18, representatives of about 70 neighborhood and community groups, unions, campesino groups and civic associations from the Bolivian departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Oruro and Sucre met in the city of Cochabamba to map out a national strategy around key demands. The groups ended the meeting with an agreement to temporarily suspend street protests and road blockades while they present their demands to Congress and to new president Eduardo Rodriguez, who replaced Carlos Mesa Gisbert on June 9. On July 23 the groups are to meet again to discuss the progress made.

The primary demand of the social organizations is for nationalization of the country’s hydrocarbons (gas and oil) resources. They are demanding that the Bolivian state immediately recover ownership of these resources and that the state oil company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales de Bolivia (YPFB), take over all hydrocarbons production, industrialization and sales. They are also demanding that Congress revise the Hydrocarbons Law, taking out clauses that protect Bolivia’s current gas and oil contracts with transnational companies. In addition, they want a commission made up of government and social organization representatives to carry out a legal and technical audit of the transnational companies’ investments, to determine whether either the companies or the state require compensation.

The second main demand is for the immediate convening of a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution. The groups also agreed to support demands for regional autonomy, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the state’s right to exploit natural resources or lead to the creation of a federal republic. In their final resolution, the organizations propose that a referendum on autonomy be carried out the same day as the election for the constituent assembly. (Resumen Latinoamericano 6/20/05 from La Haine]

Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 26


On July 1, after three days of debate, Bolivia’s Chamber of Deputies failed to approve a constitutional reform which would have allowed general elections in December. The vote was 50-54 against the reform; 105 votes–two thirds of the Chamber–were needed to approve it. The leftist Movement to Socialism (MAS) and right-wing New Republican Force (NFR) parties blocked the measure, demanding that a constituent assembly be convened before new general elections are set. The Only Union Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB) and the Federation of Neighborhood Committees (FEJUVE) in El Alto have threatened to begin blocking roads on July 4; they are demanding that Congress be shut down and general elections be held. (AP, July 1; La Jornada, Mexico, July 2 from AFP, DPA)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 3

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #110


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Muslims Still Targeted for Police, FBI Harassment

by Thomas Tracy and Stephen Witt

One of the largest and fastest-growing Muslim communities in the United States is in the borough of Brooklyn, and incidents of harassment and “profiling”—by both the New York City Police Department and FBI—seem unabated there three years and counting after 9-11.

In one recent incident in the Bay Ridge neighborhood, a police officer reportedly tailed a prominent member of the local Arab community only to finally confront him at a gas station with his gun drawn and ask where “the bombs were.”

Activists as well as members of the Arab community brought these allegations to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly during a special meeting at Medgar Evers College on June 15.

After listening to complaint after complaint, Kelly encouraged all of those concerned to bring their charges to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). “If anyone feels aggrieved or abused by the police, the vehicle they can use to get their point across is to contact the CCRB,” he told the audience. “They are the independent agency for the NYPD that investigates these allegations and it’s easier than it has been.”

Some guests attending the community conference said that they had heard stories that cops routinely question Arabs’ immigration status. Others recalled the May incident in the 66th Precinct where a Bangladeshi immigrant was hospitalized during a robbery, but, because of an alleged miscommunication between police officers, the case was never investigated until the hospital informed them that the man had died.

Several hundred Bangladeshi immigrants living in Kensington braved the rain to protest the homicide. Once the case was investigated, detectives arrested two teenagers for the crime, Kelly said, claiming that the “internal miscommunication” was still being investigated.

The worst alleged case of police insensitivity toward Brooklyn’s Muslim communities brought forth at the meeting involved a Bay Ridge man who was reportedly followed by a police officer for two miles, only to be confronted by the cop at a neighborhood gas station with his gun drawn earlier this year.

“He was terrified. The cop followed him for two and a half miles and didn’t put on a siren,” said a friend of the victim. “He [the cop] waited until he was filling up at a gas station, then he got out of his car, pulled a gun and aimed it right at this gentleman, asking him for his license and where the bombs were.”

Sources at the 68th Precinct said that the resident’s allegations were investigated and, after some conversations where apologies were made, the resident decided against taking his complaints any further.

Ultimately, the unnamed community leader received four tickets, which were later dismissed, the friend detailing the story said.

While Kelly said that it was difficult to hear these kinds of stories, he also questioned the validity of the account, because the friend did not witness what had happened and the incident had not been officially reported.

“Something like this should clearly go to the review board,” he said, adding that a retelling of the story after so many months can be “like a game of telephone.”

“One person tells another person and everything is changed,” he said.

But close to a half dozen speakers from the community demanded more sensitivity training from the Commissioner.

Flatbush community activist Asghar Choudry said the cops “are confused because they know nothing about our religion or customs. You should let our Imams and leaders become more active and go into the police stations and give sensitivity training, not only to the new officers but to the supervisors and commanding officers as well.”

Commissioner Kelly said that the next academy class, due out in July, is more educated and more ethnically diverse than in previous years. “We are making our police force more reflective of the community,” he said.

In addition to NYPD “profiling” on Brooklyn’s Muslims, federal “anti-terrorist” investigations continue to target the borough’s Islamic community.

Another community meeting in Brooklyn posed a hardened F.B.I. agent saying it was his job to protect the country against several hundred Muslim immigrants saying the way they were treated was un-American.

That was the scene at the Bukhara Catering hall, on Coney Island Avenue in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn in early June, when representatives from the F.B.I. and the Homelands Security Department’s Immigration & Customs Enforcement came to address concerns of the borough’s fast-growing Muslim community.

Sponsoring the event were the Council on American Islamic Relation (CAIR), the Arab American/Muslim Consultants Network (AAMCM), the Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC), the American Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (AAADC), and local neighborhood mosques and businesses.

Chuck Frahm, who heads the counter terrorism division of the F.B.I in New York City, called the meeting an important exchange of ideas and said he has now participated in several such forums, where “we listen and hear what you have to say.”

“A proud cornerstone of the United States Constitution is to ensure civil rights are protected, including freedom of religion,” Frahm told the audience. “But I can also say we make no apologies for the actions we must take to protect America. We must be able to obtain information to help you in this room. We service everybody in this room, it doesn’t matter if they are a citizen or not. But I also need your help to keep America safe.”

Frahm said his agency investigates many types of terrorism or terrorism-related crimes, including the illegal transfer of money, but emphasized there are terrorist groups that have nothing to do with the Islamic community that he also investigates, singling our neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

The meeting began with civil rights attorney Khurrum Wahid stating that relations between the government and Muslim community continue to erode and that it is incumbent on both sides to try to repair the “serious lack of trust that happened in the aftermath of September 11.”

Wahid said law enforcement has contributed to the culture of fear in New York, citing the increasing use of confidential informants culled from the local community. Often these informants have outstanding deportation orders and are offered the chance to get a green card if they cooperate and assist in the apprehension of others, Wahid said.

Wahid said the distrust is further hampered by the government practice of using immigration to detain people when in fact they are working on criminal case.

These immigrants are sometimes pulled from their homes in the dead of night in front of their families, where no attorney is provided. There are a number of media reports based on government leaks placing the arrest in a criminal context, when in fact, it is immigration related.

Among these cases, that caused the ire of local Muslim-Americans is the recent detention of two teenage Muslim girls from Queens, who were detained on immigration violations in March, after the F.B.I. became concerned that they might be planning to become suicide bombers.

Their detention without adequate legal representation, and their being held in Pennsylvania far from their families, was the cause of at least one Muslim-American meeting in Kensington in protest. After six weeks in detention the girls were released in early May, and officials have yet to comment on the case.

Lastly, Wahid complained that often at border crossings, Muslim-Americans are detained for no other reason than their name is on a “watch list” because a suspected terrorist or criminal has the same name. The name Mohammad in the Muslim community is akin to John Smith in America, he said, likening this practice to profiling.

Martin Ficke, a special agent with the New York City office of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that the Asian and Latino communities express the same types of complaints that immigration and customs authorities are targeting and profiling them.

As for the “watch list” of names, Ficke admitted that there are certain names that require local authorities to look into identities. Both Ficke and Frahm said this has to be done in the name of security, and often Latinos with common names such as Fernandez are stopped and questioned if it matches the name of a drug lord.

Frahm admitted it is often an inconvenience to be stopped at the border, even stating that he was once even detained at the Canadian border–but for now it is a security precaution that must be followed. One way to make the detainment go quicker, said Frahm, is to make sure that you always carry plenty of documentation of who you are and what you do.

But Brooklyn was hit especially hard by the post-9-11 sweeps—nearly half of the borough’s 120,000 Pakistanis alone were detained, deported or chose to leave, according to the New York Times. And with abuses continuing, authorities may find that rebuilding trust will take more than appeals for patience and cooperation.


Adopted for WW4 REPORT from journalism that appeared in Brooklyn’s Courier Life publications.


Council on American-Islamic Relations

“In Brooklyn, 9/11 Damage Continues,” New York Times, June 7, 2003

See also:

Our last report on the detained teenage girls:

“Fear on Atlantic Avenue,” WW4 REPORT #76


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Lawlessness Brings Call for New U.S. Military Role

by Kody Emmanuel

Since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in March 2004, Haiti has largely disappeared from the headlines. But the country remains torn by violence and deep in political crisis. The United Nations has now called on the United States to send more troops to Haiti to support the 7,500-strong peacekeeping force, the United Nations Stabilization Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH), which one year ago formally took over from the joint US-French force that occupied the nation upon on the ouster of Aristide.

Haiti is currently experiencing a crime wave that is effecting all segments of the population. Reports of kidnappings, reprisal killings and robberies are becoming a normal part of Haitians’ daily realities. Behind these crimes are often semi-organized armed groups–former members of the Tonton Macoutes, the fearsome paramilitary force of the old Duvalier dictatorship; remnants of rebel forces that ousted Aristide; gangs tied to Aristide’s Lavalas party; and formerly incarcerated deportees from the United States. But desperate youth–often as young as sixteen–are also committing crimes at a frequency that rival these groups. Many of these young people are not from families with a history of crime–but simply from homes that are despairingly impoverished. The high level of poverty and lack of any economic alternatives is forcing young people into a life of crime.

One young Haitian asks us to imagine a life of bathing in sewage-contaminated water, eating only one meal a day at best, growing up angry, envious and desperate. “What do you expect him to do but hustle, or if it’s a young girl to sell her body? You now put a gun in his hand and instantly he has the one thing that he’s been lacking: respect. I consider myself lucky; both of my parents are working, but there are days when I eat only on one meal… This a vicious cycle that we are living.”

Felipe Donoso, former Haiti delegation chief for the International Committee of the Red Cross, with years of experience in the Port-au-Prince slum of Cite Soleil, says: “Gangs are not people that you can just define as the bad guy. No, you have all kind of people in [the gangs]… This is a product of a system that is not working.”

The streets of Port-au-Prince are overcrowded with young street vendors. Haiti’s economy declined by 0.4% annually throughout the 1990s–largely due to two decades of political upheaval, cuts in financial assistance by the United States, mismanagement in agricultural production, and trade barriers from rich countries for Haitian goods. It has never recovered. This economic downturn impacted all of Haiti’s economic classes–but especially Haiti’s street children and vendors, rural poor and small-scale enterprises. Along with the country’s economic malaise, many of the youth programs started by President Aristide, such as Radyo Timoun, Haiti’s first youth-based radio station, were looted and burned during the violence that ousted him last year–along with the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, in which the station was located, and which oversaw other community development programs.

Haiti’s young people are increasingly the victims of random shootings by neighborhood gangs, the Haitian police and even the UN peacekeeping force–which has an official mandate to maintain law and order and aid the government in demobilizing armed groups and protecting civilians from violence. MINUSTAH–made up largely of Brazilians, with smaller military detachments from several other countries–is also responsible for helping the transitional government restructure the police and organize fall elections.

Critics of MINUSTAH claim that it has failed to distinguish between the general population and gang members, leading peacekeeping troops to kill many innocent people. Evel Fanfan, president of the Association of University Students Committed to a Haiti with Rights, has brought charges against MINUSTAH soldiers, accusing the peace-keeping force of killing 15-year-old Fedia Raphael of Cite Soleil. According to the charges, Fedia was shot on the morning of April 9, 2004 by MINUSTAH soldiers on patrol in the troubled neighborhood of Cite Soleil. The shooting came at a time when the area was relatively calm; still, emergency units only reached Fedia after she had died in a pool of her own blood. According to Fanfan, numerous cases such as the shooting of Fedia–along with those of thousands of young people held in abysmal conditions in Haiti’s National Penitentiary–have yet to be reviewed by Haitian courts.

Haiti’s poor neighborhoods, such as Cite Soleil, have become virtual prisons for their residents. UN peacekeepers stormed into Cite Soleil on July 6, 2005, killing two supporters of former President Aristide. According to Haiti Police Chief Leon Charles, longtime well-known Aristide supporter and community activist Emmanuel Wilme, known as “Dred Wilme,” was killed during several hours of gunfights between the 350 peacekeepers and Aristide supporters.

Since the forced departure of Aristide from office last year, Dred Wilme had repeatedly denounced the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue for killing Aristide supporters. He also accused Andy Apaid, a business leader who prominently supported the anti-Aristide rebels, of hiring known criminals to murder residents of Cite Soleil. He has also accused MINUSTAH of neglecting its peacekeeping mission and behaving more like an occupation force.

Said Dred Wilme during a recent interview with the New York-based Haitian community radio program Lakou New York: “They [MINUSTAH] shoot people sitting and selling in the marketplace. MINUSTAH must understand that the people in the streets are the masses of the people. They say that these people are ‘chime’ [pro-Aristide militia] but they are not ‘chime.’ They are the masses of the people fighting for their rights and demanding the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti. Inside Cite Soleil today we are facing a very serious climate of terror where many people have been killed and many children have been shot. We are asking for support because President Aristide must come back for peace to reign in Haiti.”

While Aristide’s supporters continue to be the target of police raids, random killings and arrests, members of the disbanded army and well-known human rights abusers are beginning to seek positions in mainstream politics.

Says Marguerite Laurent, founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network: “Dred Wilme was announced dead on July 7, 2005, the same day that US CIA asset and the real killer and Haitian bandit, Guy Phillipe, announced his candidacy for president of Haiti. Guy Phillipe is a terrorist to the majority of Haitians; thus, naturally he’s a ‘freedom fighter’ for [US assistant secretary of state] Roger Noreiga, [US ambassador to Haiti] James Foley, Haiti Democracy Project, NED [National Endowment for Democracy], IRI [International Republican Institute] and their Group 184 lackeys.” Group 184 is Andy Apaid’s anti-Aristide “pro-democracy” formation. Guy Phillipe was the most visible leader of the armed rebellion against Aristide.

In a series of raids in early June, over 20 residents were killed and their homes put to the torch by the Haitian National Police in the poor Port-au-Prince district of Bel-Air, a stronghold of Aristide’s Lavalas movement. The attacks were officially part of an anti-crime sweep, but residents accused the police of targeting Lavalas supporters. Nobody has been held accountable for the killings. Meanwhile, Aristide’s former prime minister Yvon Neptune has been jailed since his government was overthrown in March 2004, accused of overseeing a massacre of Aristide opponents at the village of St. Marc three weeks earlier, during the destabilization campaign. He was only formally charged this May, and he rejects the accusations.

Many Haitians are increasingly skeptical of calls for MINUSTAH to take more robust actions on handling gangs and crime, given the peacekeeping force’s own involvement in lawless violence. And many are more cynical still about calls for a renewed US military role in Haiti.

The US and France, responsible for the military intervention that led to the departure of President Aristide, appear to be gearing up for a return to Haiti, with the rationale that MINUSTAH is not capable of ensuring the degree of security required to hold elections in October-December this year. But military action will not be enough to contain the growing resentment and resistance against what majority of Haitians view as the re-occupation of their country by France and America, either directly or through their proxies: MINUSTAH member countries and the interim government.


Lakou New York interview with Dred Wilme, April 4, 2005

Global Security page on international military operations in Haiti

Amnesty International 2005 report on Haiti

Haiti Action Committee

See also:

“Haiti’s Silent Agony,” WW4 REPORT #103

Our last blog post on Haiti


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution



Yeah, Bush Lied–So What Do We Do About It?

by Bill Weinberg

Two years and counting after the invasion, a year after the official transfer to Iraqi “sovereignty,” and two months after the formation of an elected government, Iraq remains a classic counter-insurgency quagmire. And irrefutable documentary evidence has now emerged that Bush lied about his intentions in the war. We—the anti-war forces who warned of all this back in 2003—are vindicated. Just as the so-called “Memogate” revelations have come to light, global activists are gathering in Istanbul for a self-declared “tribunal” on US war crimes in Iraq, which is reiterating our all too obvious vindication.

This may make us feel good about ourselves. It may even be helpful in documenting US war crimes in a visible forum. But does that, alone, in any way help the people of Iraq? No. Does it even necessarily hasten the day when US troops will leave? If we merely gloat at the agony in Iraq and fail to grapple with the tough questions—again, no.


The Bush administration itself issues statements on the state of the war laden with contradictions, a sure sign of the beginnings, at least, of official panic. Vice President Dick Cheney tells us “the insurgency is in its last throes.” Defense Secretary Rumsfeld paradoxically defended this statement, even while warning June 26 that “Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.” He assured, however, that the fighting would eventually be left to the Iraqis. “We’re going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against the insurgency.”

President Bush’s address at Ft. Bragg on June 28 was assailed even by Republicans for its repeated invocation of 9-11, another sign of waning confidence in public support for the war. Said Bush: “The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of Sept. 11, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like bin Laden.” The obvious response is that it is the US occupation that lured al-Zarqawi to Iraq in the first place, and made the country a hotbed of Islamist terrorism.

On June 25, the UK Independent provided a survey of how the insurgency has fared over the past year since the official transfer to Iraqi sovereignty:

“Car bombers have struck Iraq 479 times in the past year, and a third of the attacks followed the naming of a new Iraqi government two months ago, according to a count compiled by the Associated Press news agency and based on reports from police, military and hospital officials. The unrelenting attacks, using bombs that can cost as little $17 (ÂŁ9.30) each to assemble, have become the most-favored weapon of the government’s most determined enemies, Islamic extremists. The toll has been tremendous: From 28 April through 23 June, there were at least 160 vehicle bombings that killed at least 580 people and wounded at least 1,734. For the year from the handover of sovereignty on 28 June 2004, until 23 June, 2005, there were at least 479 car bombs, killing 2,174 people and wounding 5,520. Altogether, insurgents have killed at least 1,245 people since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over on 28 April. There were 77 car bombs in May, killing 317 people and wounding 896. Last month was the most violent for Iraqi civilians since the US-led invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power in March 2003.”

On May 27, New York’s Spanish-language daily El Diario/La Prensa noted a study by Puerto Rico’s government finding that “US government reports on soldiers under U.S. command killed in Iraq are so fragmented that they account for less than half of the total number.” This analysis was confirmed by El Diario/La Prensa’s review of multiple documents, including official releases by the Department of Defense, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior and more than 230 battlefront reports, which reveal that over 4,076 troops under US command had been killed in 799 days of battle. The official toll reported in the US papers—counting only US troops, as opposed to all troops under US command—was 1,649. (It has since gone up to 1,736.)

Military affairs expert JosĂ© RodrĂ­guez Beruff from the University of Puerto Rico told El Diario that the figures showing more than 4,000 dead indicate that, far from winning the war in Iraq, “what is happening is that the troops are being worn down.” He said that traditional theorists calculate that for an occupation force to win a guerrilla war, its casualties should be one to ten of its enemy’s. In this case, that would require 40,000 casualties among the insurgents.

There is still more confusion when it comes to the wounded, which US authorities put at 12,600 and counting. But El Diario cited the German Press Agency (DPA), which ran a story reporting on US Army documents putting the number of US soldiers with war-related mental ailments at 100,000.

The figures came to light in the course of an ongoing investigation by El Diario/La Prensa into the number of Puerto Rican and Latino casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. That inquiry prompted Rep. JosĂ© Serrano (D-NY) and AnĂ­bal Acevedo Vilá, then resident commissioner of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, to request a full casualty report, which yielded a partial list of 200 Puerto Rican losses, including battlefield deaths, wounded and medical discharges. After his election as Puerto Rico’s governor, Acevedo Vilá renewed his request to the Defense Department for a total and specific accounting, but has yet to receive an answer.

According to documents reviewed by El Diario, in addition to the 1,649 fatalities among US uniformed troops, there were 88 from the UK, 92 from other coalition member countries, 238 reported by private contractors, and at least 2,000 from members of the Iraqi army. The biggest gap in the published counts is that of Iraqi troops under command of the occupying forces.

Meanwhile, as we watch the corpses pile up, the basics of ordinary life still haven’t been restored to Iraqis. In a July 1 statement, Baghdad’s mayor decried the capital’s crumbling infrastructure and its inability to supply enough clean water to residents, threatening to resign if the government won’t provide more money.

The statement from Mayor Alaa Mahmoud al-Timimi was a signal of the daily misery still endured by Baghdad’s 6.45 million people. In addition to the unrelenting bombings and kidnappings, serious shortages in water, electricity and fuel continue to make normal life untenable. “It’s useless for any official to stay in office without the means to accomplish his job,” said al-Timimi, who is seeking $1.5 billion for Baghdad in 2005 but so far has received only $85 million.

Just as al-Timimi released this statement, one of Baghdad’s central water plants was shut down by a fire, possibly resulting from insurgent mortar fire, leaving millions in the capital without water.

And, like the West Bank, Baghdad is now divided by a “security fence”—actually a huge concrete wall—that separates the Green Zone, where the US authorities and their client state have set up shop in Saddam’s old palaces and ministry buildings, from the rest of the city. The wall draws mortar and rocket fire, and the shops around it have become targets for suicide attacks, making life in central Baghdad more dangerous, not less.


In his official final word in April, Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s top weapons inspector in Iraq, said that the search for weapons of mass destruction had “gone as far as feasible” and resulted in nothing. “After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted,” wrote Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, in an addendum to the 1,500-page final report he issued last fall.

In the 92-page addendum, Duelfer gave a final look at the investigation that employed over 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts. Duelfer said there is no purpose in keeping the detainees who are being held because of their supposed knowledge on Iraq’s weapons, although he did not provide details about the current number of such detainees.

This little-noted embarrassment was shortly followed by the Downing Street Memo revelations, which have made something of a bigger splash. Leaked by a “British Deep Throat” to reporter Michael Smith of the London Times in mid-May, the secret document, slugged “eyes only,” summarizes a July 23, 2002 meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, in which Richard Dearlove head of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence service (referred to by his code-name “C”) reported on a recent visit to Washington. The memo notoriously reads:

“There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action…

“It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

“The Attorney-General [Lord Peter Goldsmith] said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago [November 1998 resolution calling on Saddam to cooperate with weapons inspectors] would be difficult. The situation might of course change.”

These words were written at a time when the Bush administration was still insisting that military action would be a “last resort” against Iraq.

The London Times also reported May 29 that MPs from the UK’s Liberal Democrats had received information from the Royal Air Force showing that the bombing of Iraqi targets dramatically escalated in the prelude to the invasion, in an apparent attempt to goad Saddam into war. The information shows that the allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001.

Another leaked British memo, reported in the Washington Post June 12, has proved particularly prescient. The briefing paper, prepared for Blair and his top advisers eight months before the invasion, concluded that the US military was not preparing adequately for what the memo predicted would be a “protracted and costly” postwar occupation. The eight-page memo, written in advance of the notorious July 2002 Downing Street meeting, is entitled “Iraq: Conditions for Military Action.” It notes that US “military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace,” but that “little thought” has been given to “the aftermath and how to shape it.”


At the end of June, the World Tribunal on Iraq got underway in Istanbul, convened by leading luminaries of the global anti-war movement. Among other things, the tribunal charged the United States with: waging a war of aggression contrary to Nuremberg Principles and UN charter, targeting the civilian population, using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapons systems, failing to safeguard the lives of civilians under occupation, using deadly violence against peaceful protesters, imposing punishments without charge or trial and using collective punishment, re-writing the laws of a country that has been illegally invaded and occupied, creating the conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has been seriously degraded, and redefining torture in violation of international law to allow the use of torture and illegal detentions.

The opening statement also calls for “recognizing the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation and to develop independent institutions, and affirming that the right to resist the occupation is the right to wage a struggle for self-determination…”

The World Tribunal on Iraq is consciously echoing the 1967 International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, held in Stockholm and Copenhagen and overseen by British pacifist Bertrand Russell. Many of the criticisms that were leveled against the Russell Tribunal, as it was popularly known, are now being heard against the Istanbul tribunal: that it has no legal legitimacy, is recognized by no sovereign power, that nobody is arguing for the defense, that the jurors are all already convinced and the outcome is predermined.

At the opening session in Istanbul, Arundhati Roy delineated these charges, and answered them in her typically self-righteous style that the left finds so irresistible:

“The first is that this tribunal is a Kangaroo Court. That it represents only one point of view. That it is a prosecution without a defense. That the verdict is a foregone conclusion. Now this view seems to suggest a touching concern that in this harsh world, the views of the US government and the so-called Coalition of the Willing headed by President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have somehow gone unrepresented. That the World Tribunal on Iraq isn’t aware of the arguments in support of the war and is unwilling to consider the point of view of the invaders. If in the era of the multinational corporate media and embedded journalism anybody can seriously hold this view, then we truly do live in the Age of Irony, in an age when satire has become meaningless because real life is more satirical than satire can ever be.”

Richard Falk, author of over 30 books on international law, addressed the event’s mission in less sarcastic terms in his remarks, stating that this “Tribunal movement” works “to reinforce the claims of international law by filling in the gaps where governments and even the United Nations are unable and unwilling to act, or even speak. When governments are silent, and fail to protect victims of aggression, tribunals of concerned citizens possess a law-making authority.” But even he implicitly admitted that the verdict was a foregone conclusion, stating that in contrast to traditional tribunals, the Istanbul tribunal’s “essential purpose is to confirm the truth, not to discover it.” And indeed, the 1967 Russell Tribunal found the US guilty on every charge with a unanimity that even the judges at Nuremberg failed to achieve.

But the far bigger problem concerns the Tribunal’s stance towards the Iraqi “resistance,” which, like that of the international left generally, is muddled and naive.

The Tribunal affirms the abstract right to resist, but abjectly fails to grapple with the realities of Iraq’s actually-existing armed resistance. Arundhati Roy, for her part, has written enthusiastically of the Iraqi resistance in the past, a stance which is at least minimally clearer if no more morally consistent than that of the tribunal she now represents. It is, presumably, the same groups which are attacking US and (more often) Iraqi government forces which are also attacking perceived ethnic and religious enemies within Iraq with even greater ferocity. The June 2 suicide attack on a Sufi gathering north of Baghdad that left ten worshippers dead is but among the most deadly in a long list of recent examples.

In this light, some of the tribunal’s charges take on an ironic aspect. The US is accused of “failing to safeguard the lives of civilians under occupation”: the “resistance” that Roy and others glorify is one of the primary forces that Iraq’s civilians need to be protected from. The US is accused of “using deadly violence against peaceful protesters”: this is something else the “resistance” has done, as when presumed Sunni militants opened fire on Shi’ite protesters in Baghdad in April. Perversely, these Shi’ites were protesting against the US occupation, indicating that elements of the “resistance” are more concerned with sectarian supremacy than building a united front against the occupier.

The tribunal also accuses the US of “creating the conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has been seriously degraded.” This one is so ironic as to be hilarious when it comes from defenders of the Iraqi “resistance,” which is imposing harsh sharia law in its areas of control, as well as abducting and raping women with impunity, throwing acid in the face of those who refuse to take the veil. But perhaps these Taliban-style ultra-fundamentalist enclaves are what is meant by the “independent institutions” that the tribunal affirms the Iraqi “resistance” has the right to develop.

The situation is somewhat muddied by reports of clandestine “black propaganda” units carrying out some of the worst attacks in a bid to marginalize the resistance. But in the absence of evidence, deciding that the preponderance of the ostensible “resistance” attacks on civilians is the work of the CIA or Pentagon is arbitrary and dishonest.

The Bush administration is doubtless guilty of everything the tribunal accuses it of. If anything, the tribunal is guilty of belaboring the obvious. But our vindication does not help the Iraqis. What answer do we have for Americans who are persuaded by Bush’s warning that we can’t abandon Iraq to al-Zarqawi? That we not only intend to do exactly that, but that we actually support al-Zarqawi as “the resistance”? This is as tactically stupid as it is morally bankrupt.

The anti-war movement is guilty of a monumental abdication of its responsibility to the people of Iraq. One thing which all of the pronouncements from Istanbul has failed to emphasize is the need to seek out and loan vigorous solidarity to Iraqis who oppose the occupation not in pursuit of ethnic or sectarian supremacy but of a secular, pluralist and tolerant social order, of basic rights for women (which are also threatened by Islamists in the US-backed regime), of something more democratic, not less, than the torture state currently in power.

Such organizations do exist, and the most prominent is the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which helped lead the successful campaign against the measure imposing recognition of sharia law in Iraq’s interim constitution. OWFI’s street protests and public advocacy are carried out in defiance of the regime and “resistance” alike, and their leaders are under constant threat of death. None of them were invited to Istanbul.

One of OWFI’s leaders, Layla Mohammed, told a gathering in Osaka in March that there is a “civil resistance” movement that considers the Iraqi people themselves to be a “third force” that can stand up against both political Islam and the US occupation. This “third force,” she said, is one that “defends human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, and asks for a secular government with separation between state and religion—where religion becomes a personal thing and no one forces anyone to believe what he or she believes. That’s the important thing.”

If only the anti-war movement in the West could be convinced of this importance.


Rumsfeld: Iraq Insurgency Could Last Years

One Year After “Sovereignty” Iraq Still in Crisis

El Diario-La Prensa on the casualty count

Baghdad’s Mayor Decries Crumbling Capital

WW4 REPORT on Baghdad’s “Apartheid Wall”

Final Curtain Falls on Iraq WMD Myth

Bombing Raids Tried to Goad Saddam into War

World Tribunal on Iraq

Brendan Smith on the “Tribunal Movement” for TruthOut

Arundhati Roy opening remarks

Richard Falk opening remarks

WW4 REPORT on Sufi massacre

WW4 REPORT on acid attacks on Iraqi women

June 22 IndyBay report on Layla Mohammed in Osaka

See also:

Can Iraq Avoid Civil War? (And Can the US Anti-War Movement Help?)


Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, July 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution