#. 114. October 2005

PERU’S CAMISEA GAS PROJECT: ONE YEAR LATER
Indigenous, Campesinos and Civil Society Stand Up to Pipeline Politics
by Yeidy Rosa

GUATEMALA: INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE TO GLAMIS GOLD PROJECT
Maya Municipal Democracy Versus the Mineral Cartel
by Cyril Mychalejko

CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ: ALREADY HERE?
by Bill Weinberg

WORKER UNIONS IN IRAQ: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMJAD ALJAWHARY
by Benjamin Dangl

HOLY LAND OR LIVING HELL?
Pollution, Apartheid and Protest in Occupied Palestine
by Ethan Ganor

From Weekly News Update on the Americas:

COLOMBIA: INDIGENOUS RE-TAKE THE LAND; PARAS STILL ACTIVE
VENEZUELA: GRINGO PROPERTY EXPROPRIATED
ECUADOR: OIL STRIKE SETTLED—FOR NOW
CHILE: THE OTHER 9-11 REMEMBERED
CENTRAL AMERICA: MAYA MOBILIZE TO DEFEND LAND, WATER

Book Review:
GLOBALIZING LIBERATION—AFTER 9-11
Activists Dodge the Tough Questions
by Gavin Sewell and Vilosh Vinograd

“Just because he’s human
He doesn’t like a pistol to his head
He wants no servant under him
And no boss over his head.”

—”Song of the United Front,” Bertold Brecht, 1936

“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life
Looking down the barrel of an Armalite
I don’t want to spend the rest of my days
Keeping our of trouble like the soldiers say
I don’t want to spend my time in hell
Looking at the walls of a prison cell
I don’t ever want to play the part
Of a statistic on a government chart.”

—”Invisible Sun,” The Police, 1981

RIGHT OF RETURN FOR NEW ORLEANS REFUGEES!

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Continue Reading#. 114. October 2005 

CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ: ALREADY HERE?

by Bill Weinberg

The most recent attack came Sept. 30 at a vegetable market in Hilla, a Shi’ite town south of Baghdad. With a modest toll of eight dead and 41 wounded, the car bomb only rated a story at the bottom of page eight in the New York Times. The previous day’s triple truck bomb attack at Balad—again on a crowded market frequented by Shi’ites—racked up a more impressive 102 deaths, including 18 children, and at least rated a slim one column on the front page of Times. The entity calling itself “al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia” claimed responsibility in an Internet communique. The group’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has pledged “all out war” on Iraq’s Shi’ites.

This nearly metronomic ritual of serial mass murder is now hardly newsworthy. And it is but the most obvious sign of Iraq’s disintegration. US commander in Iraq Gen. George Casey told senators in Washington Sept. 30 that the new Iraqi army is in disarray, with the number of “combat effective” battalions—those that can operate without US assistance—having fallen from three to one in recent weeks. As Sunni insurgents seize control in towns along the Syrian border, Shi’ite militias increasingly control the south and even much of the capital. On Aug. 9, one such militia, the Badr Brigades, stormed Baghdad’s municipal building, ousted the mayor at gunpoint and installed one of their own, Hussein al-Tahaan, in his place. On Sept. 18, a Kurdish MP, Faris Nasir Hussein of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was assassinated by insurgents north of the capital. That same day, 24 bodies were found in the Tigris River—the apparent fruit of a dialectic of assassination by Sunni and Shi’ite death squads. The Shi’ites themselves are violently divided. In Basra, the Badr Brigades and rival Sadr militia have been shooting it out in street skirmishes in recent weeks. In his Senate testimony, Gen. Casey retreated from his July assessment that US forces in Iraq could see “fairly substantial” reductions in 2006.

Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabi’s foreign minister, warned Sept. 22 that Iraq is headed towards disintegration. “There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together,” he warned reporters at the Saudi embassy in Washington. “All the dynamics are pulling the country apart.” He urged that he was trying to get this message out “to everyone who will listen” in the Bush administration. He warned that the fracturing of Iraq along religious and ethnic lines would “bring other countries in the region into the conflict.” He concluded gravely: “This is a very threatening situation.”

One who doesn’t appear worried is British left-wing journalist Robert Fisk. He wrote for The Independent Sept. 15: “There will not be a civil war in Iraq. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. In 1920, Lloyd George warned of civil war if the British Army left. Just as the Americans now threaten the Iraqis with civil war if they leave. As early as 2003, American spokesmen warned that there would be a civil war if US forces left.”

If his point is that the US has pitted Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups against each other, it’s an obvious one. If it is that the US military presence is actually playing a destabilizing role, it is an arguable one. But his opening sentence is one of simply bewildering denial.

How interesting that Fisk actually agrees with the sanguine statements of Bush. “The terrorists will fail,” Bush told a Rose Garden press conference Sept. 28. “See, the Iraqis want to be free.” He also, of course, said that “the terrorists” will “do everything in their power to try to stop the march of freedom,” which is why more troops are headed to Iraq ahead of this month’s referendum on the new constitution.

So both the anti-war left and the White House have something invested in denying the reality in Iraq. For the left, the admission of imminent civil war would be a concession to an argument for the continuing occupation. For the White House, it would be an admission of defeat and error. But nothing is to be gained by willful blindness. By any objective standard, there is already a civil war in Iraq.

CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE—FOR ENTROPY

The new constitution, approved by parliament Aug. 29 despite its rejection by Sunni Arab negotiators and MPs, goes before the voters Oct. 15, and everyone is expecting an increase in violence before then. If two-thirds of the voters in any three out of 18 governorates reject the charter in the referendum, it will be defeated. The Sunni Arabs, who appear to almost universally oppose it, make up 20% of Iraq’s 27 million people, and form a majority in at least four governorates.

Behind the Sunni rejection of the constitution’s call for federalism is the question of control over Iraq’s oil wealth. It is articles 109 and 110 that address this issue directly:

Article 109: Oil and gas is the property of all the Iraqi people in all the regions and provinces.

Article 110: 1st. The federal government will administer oil and gas extracted from current fields in cooperation with the governments of the producing regions and provinces on condition that the revenues will be distributed fairly in a manner compatible with the demographical distribution all over the country. A quota should be defined for a specified time for affected regions that were deprived in an unfair way by the former regime or later on, in a way to ensure balanced development in different parts of the country. This should be regulated by law.

2nd. The federal government and the governments of the producing regions and provinces together will draw up the necessary strategic policies to develop oil and gas wealth to bring the greatest benefit for the Iraqi people, relying on the most modern techniques of market principles and encouraging investment.

This seemingly innocuous language masks a nearly irreconcilable struggle. The language about correcting the discriminatory policies of “the former regime” clearly means not only that the Sunni center will lose its role as the favored region, but also that the formerly disfavored regions will receive a disproportionate share of oil revenues for a while. Corrective measures may be warranted, but this can only be seen as threatening by a Sunni Arab population already facing economic agony. And the new system could also be subject to abuses. For instance, the Kurdish north was certainly “deprived in an unfair way” under Saddam. But today it is the most prosperous part of the country—because it was effectively independent throughout the years of sanctions (while still receiving aid under the oil-for-food program), and was spared bombardment by the US. The Sunni center, meanwhile, faces 70% unemployment.

So if the constitution is blocked, Iraq will remain divided. And if it passes, the Sunni insurgency is likely to grow.

The constitutional dilemma also fuels the Sadr-Badr violence in the Shi’ite south. Militant Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr rejects the constitution, and opposes the occupation. The rival Badr Brigades are the armed wing of one of the principal groups in the current Iraq government, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and favor the constitution. Behind this split is the question of Iran’s influence in Iraq: SCIRI is backed by Tehran, while al-Sadr is a Shi’ite Arab nationalist. Al-Sadr fears that federalism could lead to a Shi’ite statelet in the south falling into Iran’s orbit.

And there is plenty of “deep politics” behind the struggle for oil wealth. Kurds and Shi’ites remember massacres and atrocities as well as discrimination at the hands of Sunni Arab-dominated regimes—most recently Saddam’s. The Sunni Arabs, in turn, recall how what is now Iraq was 1,200 years ago the seat of the most powerful Islamic Caliphate, the Abbasids—only to spend the ensuing centuries under foreign rule. As the Shi’ite Safavid dynasty in Iran vied with the Ottoman empire in Turkey, the border between the two shifted back and forth across contemporary Iraq. Ottoman rule was followed by British until independence in 1932. Today, faced with the unlikely of alliance of the pro-Iran SCIRI holding seats in the US-backed Baghdad government, many Sunnis look to the insurgents as the defenders of Arab self-rule.

A second issue is the role of Islam in the constitution. The pending document overturns Iraq’s 1959 “personal status” law which directed cases concerning divorce, custody and inheritance to secular courts. The new document assigns such cases to different shariah courts—Shi’ite or Sunni—depending on the sectarian affiliation of the litigants. This is protested most fiercely by women’s rights advocates, who note that neither version would afford much protection. This debate reveals another fault line—between secularists and fundamentalists of either the Shi’ite or Sunni variety.

Yanar Mohammed of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), which opposes both the constitution and the occupation, blames the US for acceding to this policy, and making common cause with fundamentalists. She writes: “Since the beginning of the occupation, the US administration has recognized Iraqis according to their ethnic/nationalist and religious identities. This predetermined polarization of the society around its most reactionary forces has resulted [in] a most lethal weapon, which is a government of division and inequality—a potential time-bomb for a civil war that has already started.”

THE REAL RESISTANCE?

However legitimate the fears and grievances of the Sunni Arabs, the armed insurgents are seemingly the most reactionary forces in Iraq. While they appear not to have any unified leadership, their most extreme exponent is apparently behind the serial mass murder of Shi’ites. In Qaim and other villages along the Syrian border where insurgents seized power early last month, prompting brutal US air-strikes, they declared an “Islamic kingdom.” Presumed Sunni insurgents blew up a gathering of Sufis outside Baghdad in June, killing ten. In the areas they have “liberated from occupation,” Taliban-style interpretations of shariah are being enforced.

Throughout Iraq, women who dare to walk the streets unveiled are having acid thrown at them—even in Baghdad. In Baghdad and Basra, liquor stores and beauty parlors are fire-bombed. These are certainly not icons of liberation, but neither should the penalty for owning or patronizing one be death.

For all their enmity, the Sunni and Shi’ite militants share this harsh cultural agenda. Both Sadr and Badr militiamen are enforcing shariah in the streets of Basra. In April 2004, when the Sadr militia was making headlines by fighting US forces, it wiped out a Roma (“Gypsy”) village, torching homes and forcing residents to flee. Local Shi’ite government authorities applauded the Sadr militia for “cleansing the town,” which had been a hotbed of such “un-Islamic” activities as music and dance.

While these armed insurgents are too frequently referred to as “the resistance,” they are not the only resistance in occupied Iraq. OWFI helped coordinate a campaign that led to a shariah measure being defeated in the interim constitution, and is organizing opposition to the similar measure in the new charter. The Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) opposes the constitution and the occupation, and is organizing for workers’ self-management in factories from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north. Its affiliated Union of the Unemployed in Iraq is demanding jobs and restitution for the thousands thrown out of work in the chaos since the US invasion. The Oil and Gas Workers union succeeded through work actions in getting the Halliburton subsidiary KBR kicked out of the installations of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company, where it had been granted a no-bid contract by the occupation authority.

All the leaders of these organizations are under threat of assassination by death squads linked to the regime and insurgents alike. OWFI’s Yanar Mohammed has remained in Iraq in defiance of numerous death threats.

This is the resistance that seeks a democratic, secular future for Iraq, free from either imperialist domination or rule by what they call “political Islam”—reactionary fundamentalism. They oppose sectarianism and the fragmenting of Iraq. It is axiomatic that they receive no aid from Western governments. Unfortunately, too many in the so-called “anti-war” movement in the West are cheering on their deadliest enemies.

LEFTIST DENIAL

The US group Troops Out Now comes closest to taking an open stance in support of the armed insurgents, calling in their literature for the anti-war movement to “acknowledge the absolute and unconditional right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation of their country without passing judgement on their methods of resistance.”

Does this include truck bombs designed to kill the maximum number of Shi’ite civilians? Posing the question in terms of the abstract “right to resist” is an obfuscation. At a certain point you have to look at the question of who is actually wielding the guns and bombs, and at whom. In this case, the criminal tactics of mass murder are directly tied to the totalitarian ideology of “political Islam.” These are the very forces which seek to exterminate Iraq’s secular left, along with their perceived ethno-religious enemies.

The jihadi insurgents—presumably aided by some remnant Baathists—are aiming their guns and bombs at Shi’ite, Kurdish or secular civilians far more often than at US troops these days. Groups such as Troops Out Now are actually supporting civil war in Iraq.

These groups play a cynical numbers game in order to hide the grim reality of Iraq’s insurgents. For instance, Paul D’Amato of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), another US group supporting the insurgents, has a piece on the group’s wesbite cheering on the Iraqi “resistance” and attempting to absolve it of massively targeting civilians. The piece is favorably cited by the journal Left Hook in an article entitled “Does the Resistance Target Civilians? According to US Intel, Not Really.”

D’Amato’s piece touts the findings of Anthony Cordesman, top wonk at Washington’s elite Center for Strategic and International Studies, who assembled a report from Pentagon data, “The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End—2004.” But the ISO picks from the data selectively to make its case. The sleight-of-hand relies on an obfuscatory distinction between “targeting” and “killing” civilians. Table 1 in the Cordesman report indicates more than 3,000 attacks in which coalition forces were the target and only 180 in which civilians were the target—but it also indicates around 2,000 civilians killed and nearly 3,500 wounded, with only around 450 coalition forces killed and 1,000 wounded in the same period. D’Amato doesn’t mention these numbers.

So the insurgents are given a pass for exactly the kind of insensitivity to “collateral damage” that we rightly decry in US military tactics. And D’Amato’s piece ran in the March-April issue of the ISO’s journal International Socialist Review—after the insurgents had adopted the tactic of mass murder of Shi’ites, something not reflected in Cordesman’s 2004 figures.

In July, the team that maintains the website Iraq Body Count made a minor media splash when they announced that the number of Iraqi civilian deaths they had arrived at through media monitoring since the US invasion had passed the 25,000 mark. This figure is now used by the anti-war movement to imply 25,000 dead at hands of US forces. (So, often, is the 100,000 figure published in the Lancet medical journal last year, based on the far less cautious findings of a team from Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities that conducted interviews with Iraqi doctors.) However, the Iraq Body Count website states that its toll “includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order…” In other words, this figure includes deaths at the hands of the insurgents.

Thirty percent of those 25,000 deaths occurred during the March-May 2003 “major combat” phase of US operations. This is not surprising, as aerial bombardment is a very effective way to kill large numbers of people, even as “collateral damage.” But since then, the majority of the deaths is attributed to criminal and insurgent violence, with the insurgents claiming an ever-growing share.

So those who cite this figure as representing directly US-inflicted casualties while simultaneously cheering on the Iraqi “resistance” engage in the most disingenuous of numbers tricks—actually attributing deaths by the forces they support to the forces they oppose.

Equally dishonest is the pretension that what is happening in Iraq is anything other than a civil war—a delusion that the anti-war left shares with its enemies in the White House. Amnesty International recently noted that the armed conflict in Colombia—which nobody hesitates to call a civil war—has claimed 70,000 lives over the past 20 years. Obviously, if the current rate of slaughter continues to obtain, the figure in Iraq 20 years hence will be around 200,000. When do we admit this is a civil war?

U.S. LEFT BETRAYS IRAQI LEFT

Behind these intellectual subterfuges is a fundamental betrayal of Iraq’s secular left by the anti-war forces in the US. Whether the US stays in Iraq or leaves, whether the current regime remains in power or is toppled by the insurgents, those fighting for women’s rights, labor rights and other basic liberties in Iraq are going to need our support. And we have a special responsibility to loan that support, as it is our government’s intervention which has plunged Iraq into civil war.

Too much of the anti-war movement seems to assume that once we achieve our aim of a US withdrawal we can wash our hands Pilate-like and walk away. Any notion that we owe Iraqis our support is dismissed with words like “patronizing” and “passing judgement”—as if it were impossible to distinguish between imperialist meddling and citizen-to-citizen solidarity.

The hard-left elements of the anti-war movement—groups like ISO and Troops Out Now—affirm the abstract right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation, but fail to grapple with the realities of Iraq’s actually-existing armed resistance. The more moderate elements, like United for Peace and Justice, simply dodge the question entirely. They are both oblivious to an active left opposition in Iraq that opposes the occupation, the regime it protects and the jihadi and Baathist “resistance” alike. It is this besieged opposition, under threat of assassination and persecution, which is fighting to keep alive the same elementary freedoms that we fight for against the forces of authoritarianism and fundamentalism here in the US. For all the incessant factional splits in the US anti-war movement, providing this real, progressive Iraqi resistance concrete solidarity is not even on the agenda.

The foremost responsibility of the anti-war forces in the US is to loaning a voice to our natural allies in Iraq, this secular left opposition, the legitimate resistance—and this responsibility is being utterly betrayed.

It is too late to avoid civil war in Iraq. The civil war has arrived. But the question of how disastrous it will be is directly related to that of whether this civil democratic opposition is completely silenced—or crushed—by utterly ruthless armed actors. History has seen these sorts of betrayals before—for instance, in Spain in 1939. We can expect no better of Great Power politics. But what explains the willful blindness on the left?

——

RESOURCES:

Text of the pending Iraqi constitution, online at the Salt Lake Tribune website http://www.sltrib.com/portlet/article/html/fragments/print_article.jsp?article=2 973485

Robert Fisk, “Why is it that we and America wish civil war on Iraq?” The Independent, Sept. 15 http://www.selvesandothers.org/article11523.html

Sarah Ferguson quotes Troops Out Now on the Iraqi “resistance,” Village Voice, March 17 http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0512,ferguson1,62240,5.html

Paul D’Amato, “The Shape of the Iraqi Resistance,” International Socialist Journal, March-April http://www.isreview.org/issues/40/shapeofresistance.shtml

M. Junaid Aam, “Does the Resistance Target Civilians? According to US Intel, Not Really,” Left Hook, undated http://lefthook.org/Politics/Alam041605.html

Anthony Cordesman, “The Developing Iraqi Insurgency: Status at End—2004,” Center for Strategic and International Studies
http://www.csis.org/features/iraq_deviraqinsurgency.pdf

“25,000 civilians killed since Iraq invasion, says report,” The Guardian, July 19 http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5242694-103550,00.html

Iraq Body Count
http://www.iraqbodycount.net

Yanar Mohammed of OWFI on the new constitution
/node/946

“Islamic Kingdom” declared on Syrian border
/node/1062

Iraq “resistance” blows up Sufis
/node/558

Acid attacks on “immodest” women
/node/727

David Bacon, “Iraqi Unions Resist Occupation and Assassination,” WW4 REPORT #113
/node/1026

See also:

Bill Weinberg, “Iraq: Memogate and the Comforts of Vindication,” WW4 REPORT #111
/node/745

———————–

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingCIVIL WAR IN IRAQ: ALREADY HERE? 

GLOBALIZING LIBERATION—AFTER 9-11

BOOK REVIEW

Globalize Liberation:
How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World
Edited by David Solnit
City Lights, San Francisco, 2004

by Gavin Sewell and Vilosh Vinograd

The stated goal is very ambitious: “Globalize Liberation was created as a resource of hands-on tools, ideas and examples to aid in our efforts to gain control of our lives and our communities, and ultimately to change the world we live in. It is intended to help individuals, groups, and movements to deepen their understanding of what’s wrong and why, to create a vision of alternatives, and to develop strategies for creating change.”

Globalize Liberation indeed paints a useful picture of the anti-capitalist movement since the Zapatista uprising and Seattle, and several of the essays in the anthology are excellent. But it’s hard to tell for whom this book was intended. It’s not systematic or didactic enough to be effective as an introduction for people with no experience in activism; the essays do a good job of describing our situation but generally don’t argue as if expecting either disagreement or complete ignorance. On the other hand, few of the essays go into enough depth or detail to be revelatory to any veteran activist. Most of the book ambles along in a frustrating gray area.

More importantly, a conceptual flaw is revealed by how much larger Seattle and Chiapas loom in the book than 9-11. Editor David Solnit—leading light of the Bay Area-based group Art and Revolution, which creates many of the giant puppets and props seen at anti-globalization protests in recent years—has assembled contributors similarly seasoned by years of experience in this movement. But, like the movement as a whole, they generally do not address what has changed since September 2001: how the war for resources and labor represented by “globalization” has become an actual shooting war, while US unilateralism has punctured the facade of a seamlessly “globalized capitalism.” Solnit’s 14-page introduction doesn’t even mention 9-11, and only briefly touches on the Iraq war.

The anthology is divided into three sections, “What’s the Problem?,” “How to Change Things,” and, “Ideas in Action.” Not surprisingly, “What’s the Problem?” is by far the strongest section overall. Cindy Milstein of Vermont’s Institute for Social Ecology contributes a clear, concise overview of basic anarchist theory and spirit that could serve as a good introduction to the subject. Citing the classical Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, she expounds on the nation-state and capital as twin pillars of an inherently centralizing and anti-democratic system. Invoking New England town meetings as a “fragment” survival of more human, decentralized models, she poses the movement toward direct democracy as part of a broader historical tendency.

George Caffentzis of the indispensable Midnight Notes Collective offers an original, astute analysis of the World Trade Center attacks. He notes how an economic “liberalization” scheme within Saudi Arabia instituted in 2000 allowed foreigners to buy parts of Islam’s holy land, making a strong case that the attacks were carried out the next year as a direct reaction to this policy. The “liberalization” only expanded after 9-11—prompting further attacks within Saudi Arabia, in a vicious cycle. Caffentzis says the “war on terrorism” is really the “struggle over control of the earth’s oil and gas.”

But even this section insufficiently grapples with how 9-11 has entrenched the imperial system—and diverted the momentum that had been building since the November 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization. Walden Bello of Focus on the Global South optimistically writes: “Since September 11, global capitalism has continued to lose legitimacy…” Perhaps, but the protest mobilizations against the WTO and World Bank have been smaller since then, and activist energies have been deflected into protesting the Iraq occupation.

Even Chris Hables Gray in his chapter on war and globalization (the last in the “What’s the Problem?” section) barely mentions 9-11. He also writes with optimism that “our current international system is based on nation-states and their decline opens up a real opportunity, actually a necessity, to demilitarize politics.” Again, could be—but the collapse of nation-states in (for instance) the Balkans and Somalia has only meant an increase in militarism and an occasion for US interventionism. The emergence of “non-state actors” on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq has provided a pretext for Washington to suspend the Geneva Conventions, the only minimal legal restraints on state militarism.

In what’s probably the most important chapter of this book for activists, Van Jones goes behind enemy lines and describes what he saw from the inside of the February 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. (A veteran of the Seattle protests, he was mysteriously invited to the WEF summit as a “Global Leader for Tomorrow.”) One of his observations is worth quoting. Jones found that the ruling elite in the Waldorf-Astoria “loved the protesters. In fact, most attendees took the demonstration—and the huge police response—as an affirmation of their own self-impotence. It was almost as if a bunch of really nerdy kids were chanting and marching around the coolest frat-house on campus.” Jones provides serious food for thought for anyone doing conventional street protest.

The “How to Change Things” section of course provides a greater challenge than delineating what’s wrong—and runs into bigger problems. A good example is longtime nonviolence theorist George Lakey’s essay “Strategizing for a Living Revolution.” In a 25-page essay he gives only one page to consciousness-raising and the creation of a new non-capitalist culture. The rest of his essay explains what you do to build and be effective as a revolutionary organization once you’ve done this. This is an instructive discussion, with case studies including Argentina’s piqueteros and Serbia’s Otpor, providing some very useful material for any existing mass movement. For example, to combat police brutality the kids in Otpor would go to the homes of violent cops and show pictures of their beaten comrades to the neighbors, family, and children. After a few months of doing this they had (peacefully) intimidated most of the Serbian police force into retreating from violent repression. Otpor’s slogan was “It only hurts when you’re scared.” The stories of middle class people joining piqueteros to beat the walls of banks are also inspiring. But these were situations where extreme repression (Serbia) or extreme economic devastation (Argentina) had already galvanized a large people’s movement. Here in the US, we face the bizarre challenge of a downtrodden population which by and large doesn’t feel oppressed. Glossing over the stage of consciousness and culture-building seems like writing a how-to book on horse racing with 24 chapters on how to spend the money you’ll win at the Triple Crown and only one on how to train a horse.

Something of the same lack of pragmatism weakens the essays on the Argentine uprising, the Zapatistas, the U’wa indigenous resistance to Occidental Petroleum in Colombia, and most of the “Ideas in Action” section of the book. None of the essays explore the question of how we translate the concepts of these actions into the realities of the “first word.” Globalize Liberation was published in North America, and was presumably written mostly for North Americans. Could the propagation techniques of the Zapatistas work here? How about the tactics of the Argentine direct-democracy assemblies? How would they need to be modified? Where are these pragmatic questions addressed?

Manuel Callahan’s chapter “Zapatismo Beyond Chiapas” takes an admirable stab at it, but would need another hundred pages to make a serious dent in the problem. Marina Sitrin describes the Argentine struggle in enough detail to be useful and also writes some of the best prose in the book. What Sitrin and Callahan both see as critical are the imagination and flexibility of these movements, their spontaneity and non-traditional, non-hierarchical approaches to organizing. What neither of them have space to get into here are the psychological and social differences between Latin Americans and citizens of the US; what can we wards of a cold, technocratic society do to reverse the erosion of traditions of social solidarity still vibrant south of the border?

Keir Milburn’s essay on creative protest tactics in Italy could answer some of the problems raised by Van Jones. Milburn tells how Italian activists use foam padding and home-made body armor, blurring the lines between violent and non-violent protest. These padded anti-globalization protestors, or “turtles,” could stand their ground against club-wielding riot-cops without having to physically fight them. By blockading without hurting the police they managed to score both tactical and PR victories. This ties in with the kind of creative flexibility Sitrin and Callahan describe in their essays, and it makes for interesting reading on its own. In fact, most of the essays in the last section of the book are interesting; what’s doubtful is how many of them are useful at this stage or our struggle.

Finally, there’s the back cover. In the lower right is a pretend bar-code with stick people escaping from it, as if from behind prison bars, to mock the idea of bar-codes. Bar-codes certainly should be ridiculed, but over on the lower left-hand corner of the book is…a real bar-code. A bar code may be a necessity of getting the book out to a wide readership. But the self-parody may also betray the obvious contradictions that make it easy for most Americans to ignore us and our ideas.

In summary, Globalize Liberation is an imperfectly conceived anthology with some really great essays in it. It is also an attempt to write a kind of book that really needs to be written. It’s much easier to criticize than to create, and editor Solnit and his contributors deserve credit for stepping up to fill a void. We need to forge intellectual weapons against the capitalist establishment, and despite its problems, Globalize Liberation is a sign that we’re trying.

——

See also WW4 REPORT’s coverage of the February 2002 WEF protests in NYC
/static/20.html#nyc1

———————–

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingGLOBALIZING LIBERATION—AFTER 9-11 

CENTRAL AMERICA: MAYA MOBILIZE TO DEFEND LAND, WATER

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

GUATEMALA: ROADS BLOCKED IN WATER PROTEST

At least 15,000 people protested in Totonicapan, the capital of Totonicapan department in western Guatemala, on Sept. 6 in opposition to a law under discussion by Congress for the partial privatization of water resources. Starting at 4 AM, thousands of people gathered in the center of the city in a demonstration called by the auxiliary mayors of 48 cantons to demand that departmental governor Juan Armando Chun Chanchavac communicate to Congress the residents’ opposition to the General Water Law. At the same time, about 1,000 protesters blocked the Inter-American Highway for at least six hours in three points–Cuatro Caminos, Xelac and the entrance to San Francisco El Alto–to demand that Congress respond to a petition against the law that was presented to Congress on Aug. 5 with 35,000 signatures. (Guatemala Hoy, Sept. 7, AP, Sept. 6)

On Sept. 7, some 3,000 people in Momostenango municipality, Totonicapan department, destroyed the municipal building, burned the home of Mayor Abel Daniel Xiloj, drove out the police and destroyed three patrol cars of the National Civilian Police (PNC). Some criminal gangs reportedly joined the attacks and looted various businesses. One man, Enrique Ajanel Tzum, was accused of stealing a computer belonging to the town. A mob took him to a cemetery and beat him severely; a brigade of volunteer fire fighters took him to the hospital in Totonicapan. Some 500 PNC Special Forces agents finally brought the situation under control. The violence apparently began when a protest against the Water Law turned into a protest against Mayor Xiloj, who has been accused of corruption; the attacks were reportedly encouraged by his political opponents on the town council.

On Sept. 9 about 20,000 Totonicapan residents again blocked the Pan-American Highway, setting up barricades and burning tires at Cuatro Caminos and kilometers 178 and 186. Protesters told reporters they had brought food for several days and didn’t intend to leave. At the same time, the 48 auxiliary mayors were in Guatemala City talking to congressional leaders, who agreed to suspend discussion of the Water Law while they consulted with various sectors of the population. When they were told about the agreement, the demonstrators sang the national anthem and ended the blockades. “When Totonicapan rises up, Congress trembles,” they said. (Guatemala Hoy, Sept. 7, 9; Diario El Popular, Toronto, Sept. 11)

HONDURAS: INDIGENOUS SEIZE RUINS

On Sept. 10, some 1,500 Maya Chorti indigenous people occupied the Copan Ruins Archeological Park, a popular tourist destination in western Honduras, to demand the government provide them with land. In May 1997, after thousands of indigenous people from throughout Honduras protested in Tegucigalpa for more than a week, the government promised the Chortis more than 14,000 hectares of land worth $6 million in the departments of Copan and Ocotepeque. So far only 2,700 hectares have been distributed. “Our people have the [park] closed because the government has left all the accords unfulfilled,” Chorti leader Cristobal Pineda told the media.

The Mayan ruins at Copan are one of the country’s main tourist attractions, drawing between 200 and 300 visitors a day from the US and Europe who pay $10 each to enter the park, among a total of some 400,000 tourists a year who visit the site. The United Nations declared the Copan Ruins park a world heritage site in 1980. The Chortis are Mayans, descendants of those who built Copan.

On Sept. 14, as the ruins remained occupied and closed to visitors for a fifth day, and Chorti protesters were in the second day of intense negotiations with government representatives, the Honduran Private Enterprise Council (COHEP) issued a communique demanding that the government put an end to the protest. COHEP blasted “the passive and tolerant attitude of the government, which puts at risk tourism and the security of people and property, which are a national priority.”

The town of Copan Ruinas, less than a mile from the archeological site, has 40 hotels, 20 restaurants and 40 stores that sell handicrafts. “We lose $50,000 dollars a day because of the attitude of the Chortis,” complained Dario Dominguez, president of the Copan Ruinas Chamber of Commerce. (AP, Sept. 14, 15; TV Azteca, Sept. 14 from Fuerza Informativa Azteca–FIA; La Hora, Quito, Sept. 11 from AFP)

Late on the night of Sept. 14, the Chortis signed an agreement with the government, and on Sept. 15, they ended the occupation and returned to their homes. Agrarian Reform Minister Henry Acosta said the government pledged to provide the Chortis with a total of $487,000 to purchase land; $277,000 of the total will be paid immediately and the other $210,000 will be paid in 2006, said Acosta. Acosta said the protest caused the government to lose some $55,000 in income.

Acosta, together with Labor Minister German Leitzelar and advisory minister Elias Lizardo, negotiated the agreement on behalf of the government, working out budget adjustments to allow the disbursement. The first lands to be handed over–as early as October, according to the agreement–will be those already occupied by 15 Chorti communities, who will now be able to build permanent structures and install basic services. Under the terms of the accord, a Chorti commission will visit the Finance Secretariat during the week of Sept. 19 to facilitate the disbursement of the funds and prevent delays.

“We hope the government completely fulfills its promises, because if it doesn’t, our people will carry out new occupations of the country’s tourist sites,” warned National Indigenous Council spokesperson Marcelina Interiano. (AP, Sept. 15; La Prensa, Honduras, Sept. 15)

The Chortis have shut down the Copan Ruins park at least three times in the past to demand compliance with the 1997 accords: in October 1998 as part of a national indigenous protest; and in September 2000 and November 2001, when army and police forces violently broke up Chorti blockades at the site.

HONDURAN LABOR LEADER MURDERED

On Sept. 11, unidentified assailants shot to death Honduran union leader Francisco Cruz Galeano in the city of Comayagua as he was returning to his home in the village of Ojo de Agua, just two kilometers north of the city. He was hit by at least 25 bullets. Police have made no arrests. Cruz Galeano was the regional coordinator for the General Confederation of Workers (CGT) in the central Honduran departments of Comayagua, Intibuca and La Paz. CGT general secretary Daniel Duran described Cruz as “an excellent leader, with an enormous social vision, who was carrying out a housing program for poor families in the region.” Duran demanded that the government carry out an exhaustive investigation into the killing and punish those responsible. (La Nacion, Costa Rica, Sept. 11 from ACAN-EFE)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 18

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: CAFTA RATIFIED

The Dominican Republic’s ratification of the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) became official on Sept. 10 when Dominican president Leonel Fernandez promulgated a measure passed by the Congress to approve the pact. The Senate voted 27-2 on Aug. 26 for approval. The Chamber of Deputies approved the pact on Sept. 6 by a vote of 118-4 with 20 abstentions. (It is not clear when the Senate held a second vote, which was reportedly required for passage.) DR-CAFTA, which is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1, creates a trade zone including Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the US. The legislatures of Costa Rica and Nicaragua have not yet voted on ratification.

After promulgating the measure, Fernandez left the evening of Sept. 10 for a 10-day trip to the US and Puerto Rico. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Sept. 11 from correspondent; Hoy, Santo Domingo, Sept. 7)

Some 20,000 workers have reportedly been laid off since the beginning of the year from the Dominican Republic’s “free trade zones”–industrial parks where tax-exempt assembly plants produce for export–and 33 plants have closed, mostly garment assembly plants. The Federation of Free Trade Zone and Similar Workers (FENATRAZONAS) charged on Aug. 31 that the layoffs result not from unionization efforts in the maquiladoras but rather from the companies’ failure to invest in productivity-enhancing technology. The Senate’s Industry and Trade Committee has asked the government to slow the loss of jobs by applying more equitable electric rates and improving the country’s notoriously unreliable electric system. (Adital. Sept. 1)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #113
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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingCENTRAL AMERICA: MAYA MOBILIZE TO DEFEND LAND, WATER 

CHILE: COUP ANNIVERSARY PROTESTED

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Sept. 11, some 4,000 people marched past the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, to protest the anniversary of the 1973 military coup in which Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte overthrew democratically elected Socialist president Salvador Allende Gossens. The government of Socialist president Ricardo Lagos prepared for the annual protests by deploying 10,000 police agents, and by promulgating a law on Sept. 10 which punishes anyone throwing a Molotov bomb with up to 10 years in prison. The march was peaceful, but when the marchers entered the general cemetery to pay homage to Allende at his tomb, a group of about 100 hooded youths from the Anarchist Revolutionary Center, the Lautaro Movement and the Rebel Youth Front stayed outside and threw rocks and Molotov bombs. Police dispersed the group quickly and arrested about 12 people. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 12)

Violence and looting broke out over the night and into the early morning of Sept. 12 in the neighborhoods surrounding the capital, Santiago. By the time it was over, 16-year old Cristian Castillo Diaz had been killed by a stray bullet at a protest barricade in the Penalolen sector and 120 protesters had been arrested. Castillo’s family blamed police for his death, saying agents fired their weapons in an effort to unblock the street. Another young man was wounded by a bullet in the old southern mining town of Lota.

The police claimed 410 of their agents were wounded, though Interior Minister Francisco Vidal said the number was 38. Those injured included a captain who was shot in the legs and two agents hit by homemade rifle fire. The others were hit by rocks.

Chains thrown at high-tension electrical wires left 70,000 people in the capital area without electricity. Incidents also took place in Valparaiso, where a wine shop was attacked, and in Valdivia, where some 10 people were arrested.

At numerous events marking the anniversary, protesters expressed anger about a bill introduced by the right-wing opposition in Congress to pardon former military officers convicted of human rights abuses. The bill would benefit about 300 convicted officers. Lagos initially spoke favorably about the proposal, but on Sept. 12 stepped back from that position, telling local television he had only meant that it seemed like an important subject to discuss, not that he agreed with it. The presidential campaign period over the next three months is not the best time for Congress to take up such a subject, Lagos said. (LJ, Sept. 13)

The Chilean army marked the 32nd anniversary of the coup with a mass at the Military School, to which Pinochet and his family were not invited. (LJ, Sept. 12)

On Sept. 14, several activists were arrested near La Moneda as they protested the congressional pardon bill. Those arrested included leftist presidential candidate Tomas Hirsch, Group of Relatives of the Detained Disappeared (AFDD) president Lorena Pizarro and several human rights lawyers. The same day, hooded protesters clashed with police inside the University of Santiago. (LJ, Sept. 15)

On Sept. 17, Lagos promulgated Chile’s new Constitution, replacing the one promulgated by Pinochet in 1980. The new document includes 58 changes approved last Aug. 16 by a vote of 150-3, with one abstention, in a joint session of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Among the reforms are the elimination of nine senatorial seats which were designated instead of elected–including four seats reserved for representatives of the armed forces–and the elimination of lifetime Senate seats for ex- presidents. The new Constitution also restores to the president the power to remove the armed forces chiefs and the general director of the Carabineros militarized police, and strips power from the State Defense Council, changing it to a consultive body which can only be convened by the president. The new Constitution codifies the length of the presidential term as four years instead of six, and bars reelection to consecutive terms. (LJ, Sept. 18 from AFP, DPA; El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Sept. 18)


PINOCHET WINS ONE, LOSES ONE

On Sept. 14, in a 10-6 decision, Chile’s Supreme Court ratified that ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet can face trial for Operation Colombo, specifically for his role in the forced disappearance of 15 or 16 jailed leftist activists between 1974 and 1977, carried out with the help of the Argentine military. The ruling upheld a July 6 decision by the Santiago Appeals Court. Under Operation Colombo, a total of 119 members and sympathizers of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) were murdered in what was then presented as an “internal purge” among leftist groups.

On Sept. 15, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court put an end to proceedings against Pinochet for his responsibility in the abduction of 10 leftists in Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, and their subsequent disappearance in Chile under Operation Condor, a collaboration between South American military regimes. The decision upholds a ruling by Judge Victor Montiglio, who took over the Operation Condor case when Judge Juan Guzman Tapia retired this past April. Guzman had sought to prosecute Pinochet for Operation Condor, but Montiglio closed the case, arguing that the 89-year old ex-dictator suffers from dementia and therefore the case is without merit. Montiglio’s ruling was upheld in July by the Santiago Appeals Court. Montiglio is also in charge of trying Pinochet in connection with Operation Colombo. (AP, Sept. 15; LJ, Sept. 15, 17)

A former Carabineros officer and National Intelligence Department (DINA) agent, Lt. Col. Ricardo Lawrence, is meanwhile accusing Pinochet of having appropriated money which DINA agents found at the home of MIR general secretary Miguel Enriquez after killing him in an October 1974 gun battle. Lawrence also said Pinochet not only knew about police and military repression, but personally visited barracks and clandestine jails and gave orders.

Pinochet still faces trial in a tax fraud and illicit enrichment case, and recently information came out indicating that the Dutch weapons company RDM paid $1.5 million to Pinochet’s accountant, lawyer Oscar Aitken, in 1998 to seal a sale of 202 used German tanks to the Chilean military that year. (LJ, Sept. 14)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 18

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #105
http://www.ww3report.com/105/andes/chile/apec

See our coverage of the 30th anniversary coup commemoration in 2003:
/92.html#andean26

See our last report on the Pinochet case
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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingCHILE: COUP ANNIVERSARY PROTESTED 

ECUADOR: OIL REGION ENDS STRIKE

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Aug. 25, Ecuador’s Congress voted 56-0 with 15 abstentions for a resolution calling for the end of a state of emergency in the Amazon provinces of Orellana and Sucumbios. President Alfredo Palacio had declared the state of emergency on Aug. 17, two days after residents of the oil-producing region went on strike to demand attention to their basic needs. The resolution also urged Palacio to dismiss Minister of Government (Interior) Mauricio Gandara.

The two-week strike ended officially on Aug. 25 with the signing of an agreement between the oil companies, the government and residents of the two provinces. Under the terms of the pact, the private oil companies will pay 16% in taxes directly to the provinces, out of a total 25% in income taxes, and will pave 260 kilometers of local roads within three years. The oil companies also pledged to hire local workers, goods and services.

But at an Aug. 28 meeting in El Coca, capital of Orellana province, strike leaders gave the government two days to force the oil companies to comply with the accord; otherwise, they said they would resume the strike. Leaders of the two provinces accused representatives of the multinational companies of meeting separately with the government after signing the accord and modifying some of its requirements. (Adital, Aug. 29; El Nuevo Herald, Aug. 29, 30, both from AFP; Hoy, Quito, Aug. 26)

“The oil companies and the [cabinet] ministers met in another assembly and came up with a new agreement, ignoring what was signed, and now they say it’s the same thing and expect us to sign it,” said Jose Rosero, president of the civic action board of Lago Agrio (Nueva Loja), capital of Sucumbios. Rosero said the changes to the text would allow the companies to pay less in taxes and take more time to pave the roads. (ENH, Aug. 29 from AFP)

On Aug. 30, the threat of a renewed strike dissipated after local authorities from Sucumbios and Orellana met with government and oil company officials at the Ministry of Energy to ratify the text of the original agreement, without changes. (Hoy, Quito, Aug. 31)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 4

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #113
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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
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Continue ReadingECUADOR: OIL REGION ENDS STRIKE 

VENEZUELA: GRINGO PROPERTY EXPROPRIATED

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

On Sept. 5 Venezuelan troops under the command of a general took control of a tomato-processing plant owned by the Pittsburgh-based company H.J. Heinz in Caicara in the eastern state of Monagas. The move by the military came after state governor Jose Gregorio Briceno, an ally of left-populist president Hugo Chavez, encouraged campesino groups to occupy it. “The governor decided to seize the plant so it can be protected from looters and later be put to use,” said Angelica Rivero, a spokesperson for the governor.

Heinz reportedly bought the small plant in 1997 and has not operated it for eight years. On Sept. 6 Heinz spokespeople admitted the plant was idle, blaming tomato growers who they said had not honored contracts with Heinz. Gov. Briceno charged that Heinz had bankrupted the growers, who would now be able to run the plant themselves. Heinz says it has a total of 700 employees in Venezuela and has “full confidence in the future of the country.” The company is “open to dialogue and negotiations” and is requesting meetings with Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Agriculture and Land Minister Antonio Albarran.

In July Chavez warned companies that plants that were idle or operating below capacity could be expropriated and restored to full operation under worker co-management programs. The government is currently carrying out a survey of some 700 idle plants and 1,149 others said to be “partially paralyzed.” Venezuela’s 1999 Constitution guarantees property rights; an expropriation requires a court decision and “fair compensation (Miami Herald, Sept. 6, 7: Labor Educator, Sept. 9)

On Sept. 10 National Land Institute (INTI) president Richard Vivas said that 317 estates with a total of 3 million hectares were under study for expropriation because of failure to use land. On Sept. 8 soldiers occupied a 27,000-hectare ranch owned by the Vestey Group, Britain’s largest British meat producer, in the western state of Apure. There are reportedly plans to occupy two other Vestey ranches in the area. Also during the week of Sept. 5, Lorenzo Mendoza, president of the Venezuelan food and beverage company Empresas Polar, issued a press release saying the military had occupied its installations in the western state of Barinas “on instructions from…Albarran.” (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Sept. 11)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11


CHAVEZ OFFERS $1 MILLION FOR HURRICANE RESCUE

Citgo, the US gasoline distribution affiliate wholly owned by the Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), announced on Aug. 31 that it would donate $1 million to help in rescue efforts for areas of the Southern US affected by Hurricane Katrina. “The funds will be directed to rescue organizations in the affected areas,” said Citgo president Felix Rodriguez in a statement from the company’s Houston headquarters. Rodriguez said the donation had the total support of PDVSA and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias. “Our hearts are with the victims of this terrible tragedy and Citgo is prepared to offer its assistance,” said Rodriguez.

On Aug. 29, Chavez had said he was offering to send the Venezuelan international rescue brigade, as well as fuel, to help with the disaster in the US. The Venezuelan foreign ministry reiterated the offer on Aug. 31, but US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said he was unaware of it. (El Nuevo Herald, Sept. 1 from AFP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #113
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See our blog post on Chavez’ historic September visit to New York City
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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
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Continue ReadingVENEZUELA: GRINGO PROPERTY EXPROPRIATED 

COLOMBIA: INDIGENOUS RE-TAKE THE LAND; PARAS STILL ACTIVE

from Weekly News Update on the Americas

CAUCA: INDIGENOUS SEIZE ESTATE

On Sept. 2, between 500 and 1,000 indigenous Nasa (Paez) people demanding “Freedom for Mother Earth” began a peaceful occupation of the La Emperatriz estate on the Huellas indigenous reserve in Caloto municipality, in the north of Cauca department, Colombia. “This is not only an action to reclaim a piece of land, legitimately deserved and required, but also a declaration of freedom for the land, all the land, [which has been] attacked to end life itself,” said a Nasa leader. (Minga Informativa de Movimientos Sociales, Sept. 6 from ACIN Communications Network; Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca–CRIC, Sept. 2)

On Sept. 5, after Cauca governor Juan Jose Chaux ordered the Nasa evicted from the estate–apparently under instructions from President Alvaro Uribe Velez–government forces arrived and attacked the community with tear gas, gunfire and grenades, and beat and arrested many community members. According to the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) and the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), residents reported that government forces destroyed the community’s food reserves in the Bodega Alta reservation, blocked ambulances from taking away the wounded and prevented health workers from treating the injured. Police agents brutally attacked an administrator for ACIN who was trying to help evacuate a person wounded by grenade shrapnel; they dragged him from the ambulance and beat him repeatedly. An official from Caloto municipality finally managed to win his release. (Minga Informativa, Sept. 6, from ACIN; Adital, Brazil, Sept. 8 from CRIC/ACIN; Equipo Nizkor, Sept. 11)

On Sept. 9, Henry Chocue, coordinator of the Alvaro Ulcue youth movement of the northern Cauca indigenous communities, reported that army and anti-riot police units from Popayan (capital of Cauca) and Cali (capital of neighboring Valle del Cauca department) had attacked again, wounding and arresting community members and burning part of the estate. The indigenous governor of the Huellas reserve was beaten badly and had to be hospitalized, said Chocue. Early on Sept. 10, Chocue reported that 21 community members had been wounded and 13 youths were being detained by security forces. The police gunfire stopped during the night but resumed shooting and detonating explosives on the morning of Sept. 10. Community members on the nearby Guayabal estate were also attacked. (Report from Red Juvenil, Medellin, Sept. 10; Report from CRIC/ACIN, Sept. 10)

A Sept. 10 report from CRIC and ACIN gave the number of wounded at La Emperatriz as 35, including 13-year old Ovidio Dagua, who lost his eye to grenade shrapnel, and Huellas governor Maximiliano Conda, who suffered cranial and facial trauma. Two community members were hospitalized with skull fractures and one suffered a bullet wound to the chest.

When Sandro Garzon, captain of the police anti-riot squad, was wounded during the night of Sept. 9, the Nasa Indigenous Guard–which arms itself only with traditional wooden staffs–rescued and protected him, and indigenous authorities treated his wounds. The Indigenous Guard sought help from the Office of the Defender of the People, the United Nations and human rights organizations to return Garzon to authorities the next day. In an interview with the ACIN Communication Network, Garzon thanked the Nasa community for treating him with respect, and with tears in his eyes, contrasted his treatment with the abuses carried out against the community by security forces.

In a ceremonial fire, the Nasa communities burned the riot police shields and other war gear they had recovered from government forces. Circling the fire, they sang the anthem of the Paez people and saluted the indigenous movement as armed soldiers stood by, watching in silence. Also on Sept. 10, Nasa leaders met with National Police director Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro in the mayor’s office in Santander de Quilichao, and won a pledge that his forces would not attack or try to remove the Nasa from La Emperatriz while the community seeks a dialogue with the government. (Report from CRIC/ACIN, Sept. 10)

The Nasa activists chose La Emperatriz for the occupation because the estate was included in a reparations agreement for the Dec. 16, 1991 massacre of 20 indigenous people who had occupied El Nilo estate in Caloto. The massacre was carried out by state police agents in alliance with drug traffickers. In the agreement, signed a week after the massacre on Dec. 23, 1991, the government promised to hand over 15,663 hectares of land to the Nasa over the next three years. The government reiterated its commitment in another agreement signed in 1995 with the indigenous communities, indigenous councils and the CRIC, yet so far has provided just over 9,000 hectares.

The Nasa say they will remain on the estate until the government appoints a high-level commission to address their three main demands: ownership of the La Emperatriz estate; resolution of the land problem; and a national debate between the government and the people to resolve the country’s structural problems.

Northern Cauca’s indigenous communities face a desperate lack of agricultural land; 70% of the land they hold has forest cover and only 12% is suitable for agriculture. According to a study by the Colombian Rural Development Institute (INCODER), the area’s 13,500 families need an additional 39,000 hectares of land in order to survive. (Minga Informativa, Sept. 6 from ACIN; CRIC, Sept. 2)

Messages urging that the government immediately negotiate with Nasa leaders to resolve their demands can be sent to:

President Alvaro Uribe (auribe@presidencia.gov.co) Vice President Francisco Santos (fsantos@presidencia.gov.co) Presidential Human Rights adviser Carlos Franco (cefranco@presidencia.gov.co) Please send copies to ACIN at acincauca@yahoo.es

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 11

MEDELLIN: PARA “DEMOBILIZATION” A SHAM

On Sept. 1, Amnesty International (AI) released a new report showing that the Colombian government’s strategy of demobilization of rightwing paramilitary groups “threatens to…ensure that those responsible for some of the worst human rights atrocities continue to kill, disappear, and torture with almost complete impunity.” The report focuses on Medellin–Colombia’s second-biggest city and the capital of Antioquia department–where the November 2003 demobilization of more than 860 members of the Bloque Cacique Nutibara (BCN) paramilitary group “has proved to be a deadly illusion.”

According to the report, paramilitaries in Medellin continue to operate as a military force, to kill and threaten human rights defenders and local community activists, to recruit and to act jointly with the security forces. However, rather than operating in large, heavily-armed and uniformed groups as they did in the past, they are now increasingly cloaking their activities by posing as members of private security firms or by acting as informants for the security forces.

Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty International’s researcher on Colombia, blasted the “Justice and Peace” Law–approved by Colombia’s Congress in June 2005–and Decree 128, which provide the legal framework for a national paramilitary “demobilization” process. “The Justice and Peace law will open the way to recycle paramilitary members, even those responsible for killings, kidnappings, ‘disappearances’ and torture, into security guards, civilian police and informants,” said Pollack. Amnesty International is calling on the Colombian government to overhaul the demobilization process to guarantee the right of victims and their relatives to truth, justice and reparations, and to ensure that demobilized combatants are not “recycled” into the conflict, among other measures. Amnesty International also calls on the international community not to provide political and economic support to the demobilization process until the Colombian government implements such measures.

In the last 20 years, Colombia’s armed conflict has cost the lives of at least 70,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians killed out of combat, while more than 3 million people have been internally displaced since 1985. Tens of thousands of other civilians have been tortured, kidnapped or disappeared. The vast majority of these human rights violations have been carried out by army-backed paramilitaries. The latest figures suggest that the paramilitaries have been responsible for at least 2,300 killings and disappearances since the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) declared a unilateral “ceasefire” in December 2002.

Under the July 2003 Santa Fe de Ralito agreement, the AUC agreed to demobilize all its combatants by the end of 2005. More than 8,000 paramilitaries have reportedly demobilized so far, not counting those from the BCN, who demobilized under a separate but linked process. (AI News Release, Sept. 1)

The report is online at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr230192005.

BARRANCABERMEJA: MORE UNIONISTS MURDERED

On Aug. 20, hired killers shot to death union activist Manuel Antonio Florez in a rural area of Barrancabermeja municipality, on the road leading to the village of Llanito in the Magdalena Medio region of Santander department in eastern Colombia. Florez was a member of the National Union of Industrial Agriculture Workers (Sintrainagro) who worked for the oil palm production company Oleaginosas las Brisas. The Barrancabermeja section of the Unified Workers Confederation (CUT) called the murder “one more sign of the violation of the ceasefire that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) committed themselves to in the framework of negotiations with the government of President Alvaro Uribe.”

“While the Colombian state announces with great fanfare the demobilization of the Central Bolivar Bloc [of the AUC], the paramilitaries headed by ‘Julian Bolivar’ and ‘Ernesto Baez’ continue in their sacred task of completely exterminating unionism in this area of the Magdalena Medio with the blessing of this government,” said the CUT.

The CUT also reported the Aug. 21 abduction and murder near Barrancabermeja of Jose Gualdron, who worked for the palm company Bucarelia. His body was found on Aug. 24, covered with leaves, on a palm plantation on the road leading from Puerto Wilches to the company’s land. (CUT Barrancabermeja, undated, posted on Colombia Indymedia, Aug. 30)

BOGOTA: DISPLACED OCCUPY HOMES

On Aug. 29, more than 300 families displaced to the capital by Colombia’s internal armed conflict began occupying six blocks of housing under construction, part of the Riberas del Occidente residential complex in the Patio Bonito sector of the Kennedy neighborhood in western Bogota. The group includes about 1,200 people, 577 of them children; they are occupying 163 houses which the District Savings and Housing Fund (Favidi) began building six years ago but which remain unfinished and unoccupied. The occupation leaders say they are not necessarily seeking homes at the site, but rather are seeking dignified living situations for the time being, and eventually a safe return to their places of origin. Agents from the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the National Police have surrounded the area and are restricting people who enter or leave; police have reportedly prevented the delivery of a water tank, and refused to let neighbors bring in donated food. (Statement from Asentamiento Permanente de Refugiados Internos por la Vida y la Dignidad, Aug. 29 via Red de Defensores No Institucionalizados; Consultoria para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento (CODHES), Aug. 31 via Colombia Indymedia; International Peace Observatory (IPO), Aug. 31 via Colombia Indymedia; El Tiempo, Bogota, Aug. 30; Humanidad Vigente, Aug. 29 via Colombia Indymedia) (See our last report on rights abuses attributed to ESMAD: /node/1097)

“The government promised us homes and they haven’t given them to us,” said one spokesperson as he helped bring children and supplies into the buildings as the occupation began on Aug. 29. Another spokesperson, Orlando Mora from the southern city of Pasto in Narino department, told a reporter: “Those of us who are here are political leaders from each one of our regions. We belonged to the Patriotic Union, but the paramilitaries forced us to flee.” (ET, Aug. 30) The Patriotic Union (UP) was a leftist party formed when an armed faction of the Colombian Communist Party demobilized in 1985; the party was dissolved after thousands of UP members were murdered.

On Sept. 2, police agents surrounding the housing complex attacked, beat and arrested a television cameraperson who had just filmed a news segment on the occupation with journalist Patricia Uribe of the Noticias Uno program. Police also confiscated his camera and footage. (Message posted by Prensa Cajar on Colombia Indymedia, Sept. 2)

The families are asking supporters to write to the following Colombian officials to demand that their rights be respected:

General Prosecutor Edgardo Jose Maya Villazon (reygon@procuraduria.gov.co, anticorrupcion@presidencia.gov.co), Presidential Human Rights adviser Carlos Franco (cefranco@presidencia.gov.co, fibarra@presidencia.gov.co), Attorney General Luis Camilo Osorio (contacto@fiscalia.gov.co, denuncie@fiscalia.gov.co), Human Rights unit of the Attorney General’s office (elbsilva@fiscalia.gov.co), Defender of the People Volmar Antonio Perez Ortiz (secretaria_privada@hotmail.com). Please send copies to Michael Fruhling at the Colombia office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: oacnudh@hchr.org.co

(Statement from Asentamiento Permanente de Refugiados Internos por la Vida y la Dignidad, Aug. 29)

ACTIVIST SEIZED IN VENEZUELA

On Aug. 26, Colombian teacher and grassroots activist Enrique Alfonso Gonzalez Torres was kidnapped in Maracaibo, capital of the western Venezuelan state of Zulia. The same day, he was taken to the Colombian city of Barranquilla, where on Aug. 30 Gen. Mario Montoya Uribe, commander of the Colombian Army’s First Division, presented him as a rebel allegedly captured in the Colombian city of Maicao. Gonzalez had been living in Venezuela after fleeing persecution in Colombia; he was a member of the Continental Bolivarian Coordinating Committee (CCB), which says individuals linked to Colombian state security forces carried out his abduction with the complicity of Zulia state police. (Message from CCB General Secretary Oscar Rotundo, undated, posted on Colombia Indymedia, Sept. 4) Gen. Montoya served as an instructor at the US Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, in January 1994. (SOA Watch List of Graduates)

The incident echoes the Dec. 13 kidnapping of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) representative Rodrigo Granda Escobar (Ricardo Gonzalez) in Caracas; the Colombian military initially claimed it arrested Granda in Cucuta, Norte de Santander department. The incident sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries. (See WW4 REPORT #107: /node/284)

U.S. SOLDIER SENTENCED

In a US court-martial process on Aug. 10, US Army Specialist Francisco Rosa pleaded guilty to using, possessing and distributing cocaine and making a false official statement. He was sentenced to five years in prison, demoted to the rank of private and will receive a bad conduct discharge. US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Rosas, Staff Sgt. Victor Portales and Staff Sgt. Kevin G. Irizarry-Melendez are jailed in the US awaiting court-martial in the same case. The four were among five US soldiers stationed in Colombia who were arrested last March 28 or 29 while using a US military plane to smuggle 35 pounds of cocaine from Colombia into the US. (See WW4 REPORT #108: /colombiapeasantsassassinated)

In a sworn statement to military investigators at Fort Bliss, TX, on March 31, Staff Sgt. Rosas detailed how the drug ring successfully shipped some 170 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to the US, taking advantage of the fact that US customs agents rarely searched the luggage of US soldiers. (AP, Sept. 3)

ARMS DEALER FIGHTS EXTRADITION

An attorney for international arms trafficker Sarkis Garabet Soghanalian told a Miami federal judge that Soghanalian should not be extradited to Colombia because “for decades, [he] has supplied valuble assistance to the US government, in criminal trials as well as in the reduction of illegal arms shipments.” The attorney, public defender Kathleen Williams, did not mention specific examples. The extradition request for Soghanalian was filed in Miami federal court on July 15. Another public defender, Paul Rashkind, took over Soghanalian’s defense in late July. Colombian judges want Soghanalian to testify about a complex international operation which led to the fall of Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), now exiled, and his intelligence advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos, jailed in Peru since 2001. The Colombian government says Soghanalian acted as an intermediary between 1998 and 2000 in a deal for the purchase from Jordan of 50,000 AK-49 rifles destined for the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Some 10,000 of the weapons were eventually parachuted to the FARC rebels in and around the municipality of Barranco Minas, in the eastern department of Vichada. Soghanalian told Peruvian authorities that Montesinos agreed to pay $80 million for the guns. Peruvian prosecutor Ronald Gamarra last year expressed suspicions that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) supported the deal with the goal of radicalizing Colombia’s counterinsurgency war.

(See WW4 REPORT #95: http://www.ww3report.com/95.html#andean12)

Miami federal judge Robert Dube has set Soghanalian’s extradition hearing for late September, and has allowed him to be released from detention to his brother’s home in South Florida, where he is under 24-hour guard and must wear an electronic monitoring device. (El Nuevo Herald, Miami, Sept. 2–quote retranslated from Spanish)

Soghanalian, a Lebanese citizen of Armenian origin, is a longtime permanent resident of the US. (Democratic Underground Fact Sheet) He is 76 years old, has diabetes and a spinal problem and uses a wheelchair. Soghanalian made a fortune selling weapons to Iraq during that country’s war with Iran; he also sold rifles to Christian forces in Lebanon, missiles to the Argentine military junta during the Falklands War with Britain, and ammunition to right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua.

Soghanalian was arrested in December 1999 in Miami and charged with bank fraud and money laundering in California, but he used the argument of close collaboration with the US government to win his freedom in August 2001. (ENH, Sept. 2) It was not clear when he was rearrested; both the Medellin daily El Colombiano and the Spanish news service EFE reported on Aug. 30 that Interpol and Colombian Administrative Security Department (DAS) officials collaborated with US authorities to arrest him in Florida. According to EFE, the DAS said in Bogota that an Interpol warrant was issued for Soghanalian’s arrest in April, and the extradition request was submitted once US authorities confirmed his arrest. (EC, EFE, Aug. 30)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 4

VALLEDUPAR: ANOTHER UNION LEADER MURDERED

Early on Sept. 11, the body of Colombian union leader and human rights activist Luciano Enrique Romero Molina was found in Valledupar, capital of Cesar department, in Las Palmas, a sector of the La Nevada neighborhood which is under the control of right-wing paramilitaries. Romero had been tied up, tortured and stabbed 47 times in various parts of his body. He was last seen alive around 9 PM the previous night while driving his taxi; his wife reported his disappearance around 10 PM.

Romero worked for 20 years in the Cicolac-Nestle Food Products Factory in Valledupar; the company fired him in October 2002 for participating in a strike which the Labor Ministry falsely declared illegal. He continued to be active in the National Union of Food Industry Workers (Sinaltrainal) as a member of the union’s human rights committee, and was also active in the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee Foundation. Romero had received many death threats and several times had to leave Valledupar; he lived in Gijon, in the Asturias region of Spain, from October 2004 to April 2005 under an international solidarity and protection program. He had recently returned to Valledupar. According to the Unitary Workers Federation (CUT), Romero is the 37th union activist murdered in Colombia so far this year. (Sinaltrainal, Sept. 11; Fundacion Comite de Solidaridad con los Presos Politicos Valledupar, Sept. 11; CUT, Sept. 12; Colectivo de Colombiano/as Refugiados/as en Asturias, Sept. 12)

FLOWER WORKERS BEAT DOLE

The Colombian government’s Ministry of Social Protection has finally granted formal recognition to the Union of Workers of Splendor Flowers (Sintrasplendor), an affiliate of the Union of Flower Workers (Untraflores). Sintrasplendor was founded 10 months ago to represent workers at Splendor Flowers, a subsidiary of the multinational company Dole. In a brief message announcing the victory, the union did not say when the recognition was granted but thanked “Colombian and foreign friends” for their support. The next step, the union writes, is to win the rehiring of fired workers and negotiate a contract. Dole’s attempts to prevent the union’s recognition had sparked an action campaign by the US-based Labor Education in the Americas Project (US/LEAP) and the Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR). (Sintrasplendor Message, undated, posted on Colombia Indymedia, Sept. 3)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 18

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also WW4 REPORT #113
/node/1032

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingCOLOMBIA: INDIGENOUS RE-TAKE THE LAND; PARAS STILL ACTIVE 

HOLY LAND OR LIVING HELL?

Pollution, Apartheid and Protest in Occupied Palestine

by Ethan Ganor

From the Jordan River Valley and Dead Sea Basin, through the central highlands comprising the West Bank’s populated core to the fertile western hills bordering Israel, recent reports from occupied Palestine reveal a worsening environmental crisis. A labyrinth of settlements, industrial zones, dumps, military camps, fortified roads, electrified fences and a massive concrete wall—all of it installed by Israel in the West Bank since 1967 and intensified since 2000—are draining the life from this ancient land.

Destructive actions by settlers and soldiers, waste from factories and settlements, land confiscations to expand settlements and roads, the plunder of water, the mass uprooting or burning of trees, and the snaking, sunset-eclipsing structure known to Palestinians as the “Apartheid Wall” are causing the West Bank’s once-green ecology to deteriorate. The cumulative impact on the land’s hydrology, topsoil, biodiversity, food security and natural beauty is severe. No longer recognizable as a “Holy Land” bountifully “flowing with milk and honey,” as inscribed in religious texts and memories, Palestine’s environment has become a weapon of war, deliberately designed to turn its inhabitants’ lives into a living hell.

Israel’s much-touted “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip, while proof that decolonization is possible, is also a smokescreen, distracting attention from the escalation of violence in the West Bank. Fully chronicling the current devastation in Palestine could fill several volumes; what follows is only a few snapshots.

Poisoning the Land

In late March, shepherds from Tuwani and Mufakara, Palestinian villages near Hebron in the southern West Bank, discovered strange, blue pellets littering their grazing fields. Suspecting these seeds as a possible cause of the mysterious deaths of dozens of goats and sheep during the previous week, villagers had them analyzed. The tests confirmed their hunch: The pellets were barley laced with fluoroacetamide, a rodenticide produced only in Israel and illegal in many other countries due to its acute toxicity.

Not just livestock, but also wild gazelles, migratory birds, snakes and other animals had been poisoned. Palestinian farmers were forced to quarantine their flocks and stop selling or using their milk, cheese and meat. On April 8, a new poison—pink pellets tainted by brodifacoum, another highly toxic, anti-coagulant rodenticide—was found at a hillside grazing area near Tuwani. Later that month, Amnesty International issued a press release condemning Israeli authorities for failing to clean up the toxic chemicals from affected areas and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Local Palestinians blame Israeli settlers from nearby Maon and Havat Maon, two small outposts south of Hebron, whose male members are notorious for assaulting Tuwani children as they walk past the settlements to school. Solidarity activists videotaped one Maon security official admitting that he knew that Havat Maon settlers had planted the poisons.

Despite this admission, no arrests were made, and the poisoning has spread. In mid-April, in Yasouf, a Palestinian village south of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, large quantities of wheat seeds boiled in brodifacoum were found.

Industrial Pollution and Dumps

While such poisonings may seem to be isolated attacks by rogue settlers, other forms of pollution in the West Bank are systemic and permanent. The landscape is blotched with Israeli factories. Based mainly on hilltops at Israeli settlements and border-area industrial zones, the factories manufacture products ranging from aluminum, plastic and fiberglass to batteries, detergents, pesticides and military items.

Because Israel’s own, generally stringent, environmental laws regulating industrial processes and waste discharge are not enforced inside the Occupied Territories, the West Bank has become a sacrifice zone. Many of the factories have no environmental safeguards and unleash solid waste burned in open air, wastewater that flows into watersheds, or hazardous waste dumped and buried at outdoor sites. Lands near the foothills of industrial zones are especially vulnerable. One of the largest zones, Barqan, near Nablus, encompasses 80 factories and generates 810,000 cubic meters of wastewater per year. The wastewater flows into a wadi (a watercourse that is dry except during the rainy season) and pollutes the agricultural lands of three Palestinian villages.

On July 5, International Solidarity Movement activists joined Palestinians to demonstrate against Geshuri Industries, an Israeli-owned manufacturer of pesticides and fertilizers. Originally located in the town Kfar Saba, in Israel—until citizens obtained a court order shutting it down for pollution violations—Geshuri moved to its current site at the edge of the Palestinian town Tulkarem in 1987. Pollution from the plant has damaged citrus trees, tarnished soil and groundwater, provoked respiratory ailments among neighboring residents, and contributed to Tulkarem having Palestine’s highest cancer rates. This Spring, a new wall (which annexed vast swaths of agricultural land) was constructed around the complex. Wearing blue surgical masks to avoid inhaling factory fumes, the protesters held signs and painted messages on the wall: “Remove the death factory,” “Get your poison away from our children” and “This is terror!”

Illegal dumps are another chronic problem. On April 11, more than 200 people from Anarchists Against the Wall, Green Action Israel and the Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf blocked Israeli garbage trucks from transporting trash onto the grounds of Abu Shusha, the West Bank’s largest quarry. In 2002, during its “Operation Defensive Shield” invasion, the Israeli army seized this site from its Palestinian owners. Since then, thousands of tons of waste have been moved covertly into the quarry, which is in close proximity to four wells and only 250 yards from the aquifer that provides Nablus with its drinking water.

An investigation by the Palestinian Hydrology Group confirmed that runoff from the dump “has killed medicinal and wild plants in the valley. It has affected the biodiversity and aesthetics of the area. Most importantly, the land is no longer fit to grow olive trees.”

After three years of silence, international outrage finally erupted in early April, when Israeli journalists exposed the scheme. With tacit government approval but no official permit, settlers were churning profits from the dump by selling their trash-transport services to Israeli cities. Environmental justice scored a rare victory in July, when an Israeli court passed an injunction shutting down the dump. Yet the reservoir of refuse remains, and dozens of other dumps throughout the West Bank remain in operation. Nor has a factory above the quarry been shut down, and it continues to pump streams of foul-smelling black sludge into the olive groves below.

Sustainable Apartheid?

While Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s right-wing government and extremist Israeli settlers are the immediate agents of this ecocide, a global system that benefits from and sustains the Occupation is also culpable. The US supplies the military firepower and diplomatic muscle that makes it possible; Caterpillar provides bulldozers that raze homes, trees and fields to build the wall; and financial institutions like the World Bank bestow essential economic lubricants.

In 2004, the World Bank published two reports outlining a sick version of “sustainable development” for Palestine, which accepts the reality of the wall rather than its illegality. As the wall carves its path through the West Bank, isolating communities and annexing cropland, the livelihood of tens of thousands of Palestinian families is destroyed and unemployment becomes endemic. In line with Israeli objectives, the World Bank proposes to solve this artificial problem by establishing new “industrial estates” alongside the wall, where cheap Palestinian labor, working for one-fourth Israel’s minimum wage, will be exploited to produce goods for export into the globalized economy.

Already, one such estate is under construction in Tulkarem, on Palestinian land that has been annexed behind the wall. In addition, the World Bank has helped Israel raise funds to create a more “secure,” “efficient” and “growth-orientated” apartheid: upgraded, high-tech checkpoints and prison gates, “smart fences,” watchtowers, border crossings with radioactive “naked spy” machines that look through people’s clothing, and underground tunnels to facilitate full Israeli control over Palestinian travel and a continuing monopoly on the land’s natural resources. Under the apartheid regime, travel between any of the West Bank’s eight population districts—Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilia, Tulkarem, Jericho, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron—is barred without special permission, and Jerusalem is completely cut off by the wall. Rather than end this matrix of segregation and dispossession, the World Bank wants Israel to “ease internal closures and restore the predictable flow of goods across borders.”

This normalization of apartheid not only shreds the basic human rights of Palestinians by confining them to ghettos and sweatshops, it also perpetuates the ecological devastation of the land. True sustainability can be based only upon the July 9, 2004, decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) requiring Israel to tear down the wall. The decision mandates the international community “not to recognize the illegal situation created by the construction of the wall, and not to render any aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by it.”

Grassroots Resistance to the Wall

With international powers unwilling to enforce the ICJ ruling and the United Nations resolutions calling for an end to occupation, Palestinian communities are mobilizing to defend their lands from annexation and destruction. Since September 2002, when Israel began building the wall’s first ring to enclose the then-wealthy agricultural town of Qalqilya, the Palestinian Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations Network has coordinated the Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (AAWC). AAWC is rooted in nonviolent direct action, organized by Popular Committees Against the Wall in dozens of communities that are directly threatened by the wall’s path.

Budrus is a small village of 1,300 people, located 20 miles west of Ramallah, where two years of fierce resistance have yielded the first case of a community successfully blocking erection of the wall on its land. Mass rallies united the whole town, as everyone from toddlers to elders converged in targeted fields and olive groves, swarming construction crews with peaceful discipline and raising enough ruckus to prompt Israel’s Supreme Court to alter the wall’s route. In March, after Israeli forces stormed a local wedding, opened fire and arrested a teenager, villagers spontaneously tore down 1,000 feet of a barbed-wire fence erected in lieu of the wall. Yet the cost has been high: six village residents have been killed and hundreds wounded by army retaliation against the nonviolent struggle.

Current resistance is most active in Bil’in, a village of 1,600 also near Ramallah, where almost-daily demonstrations since February have opposed Israeli plans to annex 60% of the community’s 1,000 acres via the wall. With support from international and Israeli solidarity activists, villagers have been employing Earth First!-style tactics. On May 4, protesters chained themselves to olive trees to obstruct the razing of an orchard situated in the wall’s path. On June 1, they locked themselves into a mock wall in front of bulldozers, forcing soldiers to symbolically dismantle the wall before they could remove the activists. These actions and other creative visual stunts have generated extensive media attention but also prompted a brutal military crackdown. Tear gas, rubber-coated metal bullets, shock grenades and a new device called “the Scream”—a huge loudspeaker that emits painful sound waves—are commonly used to disperse the demonstrators, who have not yet halted the wall’s construction.

About one-third of the planned 420-mile wall is finished; 80% of it penetrates into the West Bank. Construction is occurring now in the Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron regions, as well as around the Ariel bloc of settlements deep inside the northern West Bank. If completed there and along the Jordan Valley, the wall stands to annex around 46% of the West Bank. More than 400,000 olive trees, which comprise 40% of Palestine’s cultivated land and are the staple crop of rural communities, are estimated to have been uprooted during the last five years.

This Fall promises to be another season of intense grassroots resistance. Palestine’s annual olive harvest peaks in October and November, and international activists will once again be present to challenge Israeli settler and army actions that deny Palestinians access to their land and the right to harvest their crops.

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Ethan Ganor is an anti-Zionist, eco-anarchist Jew, a graduate from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel and the founder of the Trees Not Walls Network. He owes a debt to forests for providing refuge to his grandfather for two years in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust. Contact him at: treesnotwalls@riseup.net

This story originally appeared in the Mabon (September) issue of Earth First! Journal http://earthfirstjournal.org/modules/AMS/article.php?storyid=11

RESOURCES:

International Solidarity Movement
http://www.palsolidarity.org

Stop the Wall
http://www.stopthewall.org

See also our previous coverage of Tulkarem (Tul Karm)

WW4 REPORT #80: http://www.ww3report.com/80.html#palestine1
WW4 REPORT #73: /73.html#palestine3
WW4 REPORT #51: http://ww3report.com/51.html#palestine3

Our last report on Bi’lin:
/node/1060

And on Tuwani (Twane):
http://www.ww3report.com/cave.html

Our coverage of the World Court decision against the Apartheid Wall:
http://ww3report.com/hague.html

——————–

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Note: Reprinting of this story by permission of original source only

Continue ReadingHOLY LAND OR LIVING HELL? 

WORKER UNIONS IN IRAQ: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMJAD ALJAWHARY

by Benjamin Dangl

Amjad Aljawhary is the North American representative of the Federation of Worker Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI). In this interview he discusses his union’s main objectives, the US government’s response to union organizing in Iraq, how the money for reconstruction is being spent, public opinion in Iraq regarding the presence of US troops there and what activists and workers outside of the country can do in solidarity to help Iraqi workers.

Benjamin Dangl: Please describe the work of the Federation of Worker Councils and Unions in Iraq.

Amjad Aljawhary: The work of the federation is to organize the workers in their workplaces to demand their rights. We formed our organization in 2003 in Baghdad in a public conference attended by many delegates from every city in Iraq. They elected 55 representatives who formed the executive board representing the workers from different sectors and industries in Iraq. Today the federation has members in almost every sector and industry from Basra in the south to Mosul in the north. The federation policy does not discriminate against its members; it considers them all as workers regardless of their ethnicity or religious background.

BD: What are some of the group’s main goals and demands?

AA: Our major goal is to build a strong working class that leads to a modern society, and direct intervention in making policies and decisions in the state level. Nevertheless, that would not be possible without a strong and free working class. Our demands are mainly focusing on working hours, wages, women’s rights, social benefits and employment insurance. These demands are actually either missed, neglected or do not exist at all. In Iraq today where there are millions of unemployed workers who have no employment issuance [unemployment insurance]; it is very hard for them to survive under severe conditions such as the lack of a good health care system, the lack of security, the devastated economy and corruption. All these are actually factors of a crippled society. The women’s situation has deteriorated because of the occupation and political Islamic groups who forced women to be as a prisoner in their homes. We in our federation have always raised these issues while the government that is based on ethnicity and religion didn’t want to pay any attention.

BD: What is your role within this Federation?

AA: My role is to represent the federation in North America… This means I am linking the working class or the labor movement here in North America to the labor movement in Iraq, and try to build a strong foundation of solidarity between these two movements. I’ve had many tours to different countries in the world, for example Japan, France, Finland, and I have visited the United States twice after the occupation. In each tour I explain the situation in Iraq and express the feeling of the Iraqi people–especially the workers under occupation–and maintain the line of communication between these movements. To a certain level, I was able to deliver the Iraqi message to the American public and in turn, I was able to deliver the message from the American people to the Iraqi people. Unfortunately, the American public is not seeing the reality in Iraq because of the corporate media, who tried to portray Iraqi people and workers as religious fanatics who have no goals in their lives but to kill their opponents. However, I was able to deliver a different message and to draw an opposite picture of the Iraqi people, which actually represents the reality. In my recent visit to the states people were surprised and stunned by the facts of what is going on today in Iraq, and they could not believe that Iraqi people endured this much. Sadly, the American public was told that Iraq is in a process of development and everything is in right track, while in reality this is far from the truth.

BD: What has the US government’s reaction been to union organizing in Iraq?

AA: The American government did not want to intervene directly into the union’s business. However, after two months of the occupation, they raided our office in Baghdad and arrested some of our leaders for some days; they were released later on. That was part of the intimidation process. The government that was installed by the US troops has issued a decree called Decree 16 which recognizes one union only, stating that the other unions are illegal. This decree still exists and has never been abolished. Our understanding is that the US government wants to include in the upcoming constitution a labor law that is similar to the one in United States, which is unaccepted by the Iraqi labor movement. We in our federation struggle to include a labor law that we drafted in any constitution. Today the major barrier for the labor movement in Iraq is the occupation because it has driven the society into a chaos and corruption, and without driving the occupation out, the situation is going to become worse and worse.

BD: Do you believe the money going into Iraq from the US for reconstruction is being spent wisely? Where is most of the money going?

AA: I personally do not believe that the money is going into Iraq for reconstruction. Simply because Iraq is exporting its oil and as you see, the oil prices have risen today, for example, to $65.00 a barrel. Millions of barrels are flowing out of the country. Nevertheless, the revenue of this oil has not been seen by the Iraqi public. I mentioned earlier that the major problem in Iraq today is the violence and corruption; they both work hand in hand to destroy the society. While the money is sent by the American public from their taxes, the oil revenue is actually in the hands of corrupted officials, whether they are Iraqis or Americans. Electricity, for example, is still far from being in better shape; water purification still as bad as it was, and so on. Clearly, there are certain groups of people who are benefiting from the current anarchy.

BD: What are the major industries in Iraq which have been privatized by US corporations? What has the impact of this privatization been on the functionality of these industries and on employment in Iraq?

AA: Regarding privatization, the US-appointed Governor Paul Bremer in the early days of the occupation announced that they will privatize every sector in Iraq’s industry except the oil sector. However, they could not proceed with that because of the growing anger by the Iraqi people, and also because of the absence of a government that gave legality to the occupation. Even today what the government is doing is trying to [portray] these industries as a losing business, by either not maintaining their parts, not providing raw materials so they will not have any production, and eventually show them as idle industries. It is actually a conspiracy to sell off the entire country. Shutting down these businesses or industries will lead to massive unemployment, and that is already at a high rate. Imagine under these circumstances–where there is no unemployment insurance, no basic services, and the poverty level is very high–what kind of living condition the normal Iraqi has. We think that these unemployed people who’ve reached the millions will be very easy recruits to the so-called insurgents.

BD: Please describe the current strike among health care workers in Kirkuk.

AA: Health care workers in Iraq are the most of vulnerable workers for many reasons. The violence leads to many casualties, poverty, and a lack of electricity and clean water, which leads to different kinds of diseases. All that gave the health care employees a very special and important role in Iraqi society. However, the government did not want to appreciate their work. What they did recently is to decrease their wages, which led the health care employees to go mad because of the recent act. First, they decided to go on strike, and they did. The ministry of health official met with the leaders of the strikers. He didn’t negotiate anything. However, he received a list of demands made by the health care employees to be negotiated with the ministry of health. Next thing they halted their strike, giving the government one week to respond to all their demands–otherwise they will go on an open strike until their demands are met. This is truly what happened, and why that happened, in Kirkuk.

BD: Could you discuss the oil workers’ strike in Basra and their demands?

AA: What happened in Basra is a very different story. The mayor of Basra tried to take advantage of the miserable living conditions of the oil workers in Basra, [he] said [that] in order to make our life better we have to form our own federalism where we can maintain part of the oil revenue to ourselves–and this federalism actually is based on sectarian division, that discriminate against other workers who are not Shiites or not even Muslims. The oil workers of Basra did not go on strike in response to the mayor of Basra or his demands. They went on strike because they live under a very miserable living condition. The wages are too low, and the basic needs are absolutely not available. Therefore, they went on strike demanding that the government fix the situation. However, the government and their allies sought to lead the strike and give the strike another shape or another goal… I mentioned the workers have their legitimate demands, which were increase of wages, decrease of working hours, providing electricity and clean water. But the mayor and his assistants and allies told the media that these workers seek federalism, which was in fact a sheer lie.

BD: How will the new Iraqi constitution obstruct the rights of women?

AA: The constitution that has been drafted recently states that Islamic shariah should be the main source of law. That means considering women as second-class citizens, not to mention that Islam itself has failed to show a democracy in every country that…had Islam as a main source of [the] constitution. Under these laws human rights will be severely abused and we will go back to the old ages and we have examples of what is happening today in Iran and Saudi Arabia… You can imagine if you are a second-class citizen, what kind of rights you would have. Simply, you will have to ask for permission for every single move you want to make. For example, making decision to go to school, making decision to get married, making decision to travel, making decision to have the custody of your kids, making decision of giving birth or to have an abortion, and so on. These are just examples of the obstructions that women face.

BD: What is the general consensus among Iraqi citizens regarding the US occupation of Iraq? Do most people want the US troops out of Iraq immediately?

AA: The Iraqi people do not want to live under occupation even though the occupation has ousted Saddam. Nonetheless, the outcome of the occupation was disastrous. It’s been more than two and a half years and Iraqi people have never enjoyed one single moment of peace. Every aspect of life is going downwards, [there is] nothing good in the foreseeable future. I can assure you that the Iraqi people want this occupation to end today–before tomorrow, as soon as possible. You can even sense the madness [anger] among Iraqis towards the current government which for last six months has not achieved one goal, but corruption and nothing else. Everything is still the same or worse, and people believe that this government is appointed, installed and brought in by United States.

BD: What can workers and activists in the US do in solidarity to help workers in Iraq?

AA: Workers and activists not just in the United States but all over the world can help the Iraqi people move forward by building a strong foundation of solidarity between the Iraq labor movement and the international labor movement. Our major barrier is the occupation that handcuffs the Iraqi labor movement. Building a strong labor movement in Iraq requires a strong organization that is able to lead their demands and hopes. We have built this organization; however, our major problem today is the financial issue, which we cannot overcome because the government does not want to recognize us as a union. Therefore we don’t have any funding coming from the government, we don’t have any funding coming from anyone else but from within ourselves as workers or donations by some organizations from Japan or from the US. For example, the US labor movement and activists can look into that and try to help us in this way. US Labor Against War donated a certain amount of money to our organization and we thank them for that.

However, this is not enough, because…we still cannot issue our newspaper, we still cannot hold conferences because of the lack of money. All of these things are considered a barrier and we hope that the that the US labor movement and activists can look into that and try to help us in this way. Besides, we look at the American labor movement and activist as our friends who can tell the American public that the Iraqi labor movement is suffering and try to tell the American public the stories of the Iraqi labor movement and try not to believe the corporate media but the real voices of Iraqi labor.

——

Benjamin Dangl is the editor of TowardFreedom.com

This story originally appeared Aug. 23 in Toward Freedom
http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/555/1/

RESOURCES:

Federation of Worker Councils and Unions in Iraq
http://www.uuiraq.org

US Labor Against the War
http://uslaboragainstwar.org

See our last report on labor struggles in occupied Iraq
/node/1026

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingWORKER UNIONS IN IRAQ: AN INTERVIEW WITH AMJAD ALJAWHARY 

GOLD MINE IN GUATEMALA FACES INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE

by Cyril Mychalejko

Indigenous communities in the western highlands of Guatemala who are organizing against an illegal gold mine in the face of violence and repression are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. The Canadian/US mining company Glamis Gold operates the World Bank-funded project. Construction of the open-pit gold mine is nearly complete, with the company eager to start the drilling. Local community members claim the World Bank and Glamis Gold violated international law when they failed to consult them and gain their consent for the “Marlin” mine project. Yet Glamis counters that it consulted with the community, that the project has broad support and that international NGO’s and a few individuals are solely responsible for orchestrating the “small” opposition to the mine.

“Support” for the Gold Mine

Marcelo Etequiel Lopez, a resident of Tres Crues village, in Sipacapa municipality, said the deception used by the mining company was both very strategic and upsetting.

“That’s what hurts the most,” said Lopez. “Thank God we have figured out what’s going on. Now we are going to defend our rights.”

Siapacapa is next to San Miguel, where the open-pit mine is located. Water resources are expected to be taken from the large farming community, and contamination of local water is likely.

Lopez and other residents of Sipacapa decided to conduct community consultations with the intention of voting on a referendum concerning present and future mining in their communities.

Both Glamis and Guatemala’s Ministry of Mines immediately filed lawsuits [against the municipal government of Sipacapa] to stop the consultations–only to have Guatemala’s supreme court remind them that these people have rights. [The Constitutional Court, Guatemala’s highest, ruled in June in favor of Sipacapa, citing the indigenous tradition of community consultations.] The company then targeted community leaders by filing lawsuits against them for alleged threats and violence against their employees. People in Sipacapa unequivocally rejected the charges, suggesting that this is just another tactic of intimidation and repression.

Glamis and the government blame the consultations on a small group of private individuals and NGO’s. Grahame Russell, co-director of Rights Action, said this reveals a lot about how the Guatemalan government and Glamis regard the country’s indigenous citizens. Rights Action is a community development organization based in Canada with an office in Guatemala City.

“I think it has to be fundamentally racist and derogatory towards poor people and in this case mainly indigenous,” said Russell. “It’s a classic allegation used when people educate and organize themselves. It takes attention from the real issues of poverty, oppression and the fact that they have a different vision for what they want.”

One local resident who has been an outspoken opponent of the mine–and consequently a target of a recently filed lawsuit by Glamis–said, “The World Bank was supposedly created to alleviate poverty in communities and they give money to this mining company. Why don’t they give money to alternative development instead?” (He asked that his name not be printed.)

Glamis stated that the consultations are illegal and unconstitutional and that the whole process is “corrupt.” Yet NGO’s and Guatemalan lawyers contend that the referendum complied with rights established by Guatemala’s constitution, the country’s municipal codes, as well as International Labor Organization Convention 169, protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, which Guatemala ratified in 1996.

Another concern of Glamis was that “suggestions that third parties be permitted to monitor the referendum process for fairness have reportedly been rejected by the referendum organizers.”

On June 18, thirteen indigenous communities in Sipacapa voted overwhelmingly to reject mining in their lands. Oxfam issued a press release with the results: 2486 votes against, 35 in favor, 32 abstaining and one blank vote.

According to Sandra Cuffe of Rights Action, the level of participation in the consultations was comparable to that of the last municipal election. Cuffe has been monitoring events in Guatemala since the project’s commencement.

Glamis Senior Vice President Charles Jeannes responded to the vote in an interview with Business News Americas by saying, “The private interests went ahead and held something–I don‚t know what you call it–a referendum or non-binding, non-sanctioned vote if you will.”

Seventy-five national and international observers of the consultations and voting disagree with Jeannes’ assessment. They concluded in a communiqué that the consultations “unfolded normally in all of the communities, according to traditional indigenous customs [and that local residents] freely and democratically participated in the consultation process, expressing their decisions regarding mining activity.”

Yet Jeannes remarkably insisted to Business News Americas that the open-pit gold mine remains popular and “the majority of the residents in the vicinity of the mine support our activity.”

Truth and Consequences

The consultations in Sipacapa dealt a thunderous blow to Glamis’ project, although opposition to the mine is not unanimous. This is especially the case in the divided community of San Miguel, where the mine is located and where local residents have been given some jobs. But all signs point to changing tides.

According to Cuffe, a month after the vote in Sipacapa the community of San Miguel announced that it would also hold consultations regarding mining activities in their municipality.

Russell, who works with Cuffe, said these consultations are empowering the communities.

“They are taking it upon themselves to educate themselves, debating the issues and voting. [But] the importance goes deeper,” said Russell. “They are voting to take political control over their lives, something that’s never happened in the country.”

Then on Aug. 21, many of the claims made by local residents of malfeasance (if not criminal activity) on the part of Glamis and the World Bank were validated–by the World Bank. The Financial Times received a draft copy of the response by the World Bank’s Compliance Adviser Ombudsman to a formal complaint filed by the Guatemalan NGO Madre Selva regarding the mining project. The Financial Times reported that the Ombudsman “charges that the bank failed adequately to consult the local community or properly evaluate the environmental and humanitarian impact of the mine.”

The article even mentioned the results of Sipacapa’s “illegal” referendum in which 98% of the residents rejected mining.

It’s Not Over Yet

The World Bank’s report is a positive step. (Someone was honest enough to leak this report, which according to news reports was supposed to be confidential.) But one of the concerns with the World Bank’s oversight procedures is that there are no tangible enforcement mechanisms. The same caveat applies to putting too much hope behind international law–ike ILO 169.

“Impunity is the norm in how the global community works,” said Russell.

However, conditions in Guatemala might make it possible for this global fiasco to become an exception to the rule. Indigenous communities in Sipacapa continue to meet on a regular basis in their organizing efforts against the mine, and San Miguel is readying itself for its own referendum, with popularity for the mine dwindling. In addition, more people are becoming aware of the situation as a result of solidarity work by activists, NGOs and others.

The Guatemalan government showed it is not afraid to use violence to protect Glamis’ interests. In January the military killed a protestor and injured dozens of others [at a blockade of mining equipment on the Panamerican Highway]. Glamis can be expected to continue with its repressive tactics, while the Canadian government is Glamis’ biggest cheerleader. The vast majority of the international mainstream press still has not found this story “newsworthy” enough to report on thoroughly.

Yet despite these obstacles, local activists insist this mine can still be shut down.

——

Cyril Mychalejko is the assistant editor of UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine about activism and politics in Latin America.

This story originally appeared Aug. 30 in Toward Freedom
http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/567/1/

RESOURCES:

Mines & Communities Website on the Sipacapa referendum
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Action/press667.htm

Financial Times, Aug. 21, online at Americas.org
http://americas.org/item_21452

Land Research Action Network on the January protests
http://www.landaction.org/display.php?article=262

See also our last report on Central America:
/node/1034

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingGOLD MINE IN GUATEMALA FACES INDIGENOUS RESISTANCE