116 Environmental Defenders Were Murdered Last Year, Mostly in Latin America: Interview with Billy Kyte
‘As we continue to mark Earth Day, we look at a new report that finds killings of environmental activists on the rise, with indigenous communities hardest hit. According to Global Witness, at least 116 environmentalists were killed last year — more than two a week. Three-quarters of the deaths occurred in Central and South America. Just recently, three indigenous Tolupán leaders were gunned down during an anti-mining protest in northern Honduras, which has become the most dangerous country for environmental activists. We speak to Billy Kyte, campaigner for Global Witness and author of their new report, “How Many More?“‘ (Democracy Now!)
‘One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:
With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.
Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”’
‘Morales, a native Aymara Indian, received 60% of the vote against 25% for cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina, the highest polling of four challengers in Sunday’s election, according to a quick count of voting stations by the polling firm Ipsos for ATB television. Official partial results were expected early on Monday. Doria Medina conceded defeat late on Sunday, promising to “keep working to make a better country”.
Morales’s supporters poured into the streets to celebrate the triumph, but the festive mood was partly dented by an apparent failure by the ruling Movement Toward Socialism party to retain the two-thirds control of congress needed to push through a constitutional reform lifting a two-term limit on presidential mandates.’
- Bolivia’s Fire-Proof President
- Why Evo Morales Will Likely Win
- Bolivia’s Morales poised to win third term
- Happily Evo after: A third term for a “non-stick” leader
- Washington Snubs Bolivia on Drug Policy Reform, Again
- Natural Resource Extraction vs. Indigenous Rights and the Environment in Latin America
- Turnabout in Bolivia as Economy Rises From Instability
- Democracy from Below in Bolivia: An Interview with Oscar Olivera
- Evo Morales bows to Bolivian people power
- Evo Morales: The Extraordinary Rise of the First Indigenous President of Bolivia (Book)
‘In the midst of a global fight against child labor and poverty, Bolivia stands alone on an empty street. As the world actively seeks to reduce the exploitation of young children in the workforce, La Paz recently amended its child labor law, making it more flexible and allowing children as young as 10 years old to work legally. Indeed, Bolivia’s recent actions reflect its unfortunate reality: approximately 45 percent of its 10 million population lives under the national poverty line. With the recent transformation of the country’s labor laws, the government claims to‘solve’ poverty by 2025; but instead, the move will likely exacerbate the situation and perpetuate the poverty cycle. Although President Evo Morales and his administration may mean well, to succeed in reality, Bolivia must search for other alternatives in order to effectively combat its poverty.’
‘Bolivia has become the first country to legalise child labour after a law was signed by Vice- President Alvaro Garcia Linera on Thursday. The new legislation was first approved by Congress earlier this month, and now the signature from Linera means the age that children can legally work is to be lowered from 14 to 10.
Under the new legislation, children above the age of 10 will be allowed to become self-employed workers as long as they have enrolled in school and have the permission of their parents. Children over the age of 12 will be permitted to take on contract work, again with parental consent and compulsory school attendance.
The law to lower the age in which children can legally work, is all part of the Bolivian government’s plan to help Bolivians living in poverty. It is hoped that adding another wage to a family’s income could alleviate the financial burdens that a large proportion of Bolivians face.’
Thousands of victims of human rights violations committed during 18 years of military rule in Bolivia are being denied access to justice and compensation, according to Amnesty International. […] The report – ‘Do Not Erase Me From History: truth, justice and reparation in Bolivia – says that the Andean nation suffers from a lack of political will to uncover the truth of the past, including dealing with the perpetrators of executions, detentions, torture, disappearances and forced exiles.
While recognising that some efforts have been made by successive governments to confront the fallout from the dictatorship period of 1964-82, it says there is still no comprehensive policy to ensure the state meets its international human rights obligations. Union and political activists were among the main groups targeted for persecution under a series of military and authoritarian regimes.
Amnesty International says at least 200 people were summarily executed while more than 150 were victims of forced disappearances. Around 5,000 people were arbitrarily detained – some of whom were tortured – and thousands forced into exile. Its report says the lack of action by the Bolivian government to uncover the full truth condemns the victims to “oblivion”. “Bolivia cannot pass over this black page in its history without reading it all,” says researcher Maria Jose Eva Parada.
OTHER RECENT NEWS:
- ‘US airspace denial for Maduro is payback for offering asylum to Snowden’ (RT)
- US grants Venezuela permission to enter airspace (AFP)
- Venezuela leaves international human rights body (Al Jazeera)
- Latin America–United States relations (Wikipedia)
- CELAC: Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Wikipedia)
Bolivian President Evo Morales will file a lawsuit against the US government for crimes against humanity. He has decried the US for its intimidation tactics and fear-mongering after the Venezuelan presidential jet was blocked from entering US airspace.
“I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity,” said President Morales at a press conference in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the US president as a “criminal” who violates international law.
In solidarity with Venezuela, Bolivia will begin preparing a lawsuit against the US head of state to be taken to the international court. Furthermore, Morales has called an emergency meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to discuss what has been condemned by Venezuela as “an act of intimidation by North American imperialism.”
The Bolivian president has suggested that the members of CELAC withdraw their ambassadors from the US to send a message to the Obama Administration. As an additional measure he will call on the member nations of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas to boycott the next meeting of the UN. Members of the Alliance include Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Saint Lucia.
“The US cannot be allowed to continue with its policy of intimidation and blockading presidential flights,”stressed Morales.
South American countries belonging to the Mercosur trade bloc have decided to withdraw their ambassadors for consultations from European countries involved in the grounding of the Bolivian president’s plane.
“We’ve taken a number of actions in order to compel public explanations and apologies from the European nations that assaulted our brother Evo Morales,” explained Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, who revealed some of the agenda debated during the 45th summit of Mercosur countries in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.
The decision to recall European ambassadors was taken by Maduro, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, and Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, during the meeting.
Bolivia’s leftist president Evo Morales on Saturday accused US intelligence of hacking into the email accounts of top Bolivian officials, saying he had shut his own account down.
Latin American leaders have lashed out at Washington over recent revelations of vast surveillance programs, some of which allegedly targeted regional allies and adversaries alike.
President Evo Morales has threatened to close the US embassy in Bolivia after his official plane was banned from European airspace.
The warning came as four other South American leaders offered him support at a special summit on Thursday.
His plane was forced to land in Austria on Tuesday after France, Portugal, Italy and Spain apparently barred it from flying through their airspace.
There were unfounded suspicions that US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.
The Bolivian president blamed Washington for pressurising European countries into refusing him passage.
“My hand would not tremble to close the US embassy,” Mr Morales said.
“We have dignity, sovereignty. Without America, we are better off politically and democratically.”
The presidents of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia have indicated their countries could offer political asylum to US fugitive Edward Snowden.
Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro said it would give asylum to the intelligence leaker, who is believed to be holed up in a transit area of Moscow airport.
Meanwhile Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his country would do so “if circumstances permit”.
Bolivia’s Evo Morales said Mr Snowden could get asylum there if he sought it.
Mr Snowden has sent requests for political asylum to at least 21 countries, most of which have turned down his request. Earlier, Wikileaks said he had applied to six additional countries on Friday.
by John Pilger
Imagine the aircraft of the President of France being forced down in Latin America on “suspicion” that it was carrying a political refugee to safety – and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.
Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the “international community”, as the governments of the West call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.
The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane – denied air space by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to “inspect” his aircraft for the “fugitive” Edward Snowden – was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.
In Moscow for a summit of gas-producing nations, Morales had been asked about Snowden who remains trapped in Moscow airport. “If there were a request [for political asylum],” he said, “of course, we would be willing to debate and consider the idea.” That was clearly enough provocation for the Godfather. “We have been in touch with a range of countries that had a chance of having Snowden land or travel through their country,” said a US state department official.
The French – having squealed about Washington spying on their every move, as revealed by Snowden – were first off the mark, followed by the Portuguese. The Spanish then did their bit by enforcing a flight ban of their airspace , giving the Godfather’s Viennese hirelings enough time to find out if Snowden was indeed invoking article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Those paid to keep the record straight have played their part with a cat-and-mouse media game that reinforces the Godfather’s lie that this heroic young man is running from a system of justice, rather than preordained, vindictive incarceration that amounts to torture: ask Bradley Manning and the living ghosts in Guantanamo.
Historians seem to agree that the rise of fascism in Europe might have been averted had the liberal or left political class understood the true nature of its enemy. The parallels today are very different; but the Damocles sword over Snowden, like the casual abduction of the Bolivian president, ought to stir us into recognizing the true nature of the enemy.
Snowden’s revelations are not merely about privacy, nor civil liberty, nor even mass spying. They are about the unmentionable: that the democratic facades of the United States now barely conceal a systematic gangsterism historically identified with if not necessarily the same as fascism. On Tuesday, a US drone killed 16 people in North Waziristan, “where many of the world’s most dangerous militants live”, said the few paragraphs I read. That by far the world’s most dangerous militants had hurled the drones was not a consideration. President Obama personally sends them every Tuesday.
In his acceptance of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, Harold Pinter referred to “a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed”. He asked why “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities” of the Soviet Union were well known in the West while America’s crimes were “superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged”. The most enduring silence of the modern era covered the extinction and dispossession of countless human beings by a rampant America and its agents. “But you wouldn’t know it,” said Pinter. “It never happened. Even while it was happening it never happened. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”
This hidden history – not really hidden, of course, but excluded from the consciousness of societies drilled in American myths and priorities – has never been more vulnerable to exposure. Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, like that of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, threatens to break the silence Pinter described. In revealing a vast Orwellian police state apparatus servicing history’s greatest war-making machine, they illuminate the true extremism of the 21st century. Unprecedented, Germany’s Der Spiegel has described the Obama administration as “soft totalitarianism”. If the penny is finally falling, we might all look closer to home.
by CARLOS VALDEZ
The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales home from Russia was rerouted to Austria on Tuesday after France and Portugal refused to let it cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, the country’s foreign minister said.
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca denied that Snowden was on the plane, which landed in Vienna, and said France and Portugal would have to explain why they canceled authorization for the plane.
“We don’t know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales,” Choquehuanca said from Vienna, where the plane landed.
Morales met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a summit of major gas exporters in the Kremlin.
Morales said in an interview with Russia Today television that Bolivia would be willing to consider granting asylum to Snowden.