In Latin America, opposition to military intervention in Syria reflects the wariness of a region long beset with U.S. interventions of its own
As political attention has shifted from a potential U.S. military strike against Syria to a potential agreement on the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons arbitrated by Russia, all eyes are on the United States, the Middle East, and key actors in Europe.
But what has been the reaction in other parts of the world?
In Latin America at least, which holds two rotating seats on the UN Security Council, the reaction reflects the wariness of a region long beset with U.S. interventions of its own.
By and large, Latin American nations have opposed a military operation against Damascus. Regional blocs like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have passed resolutions calling for negotiations and a cessation of hostilities.
A leading opponent of the “military option” is Argentina, which along with Guatemala currently represents the region at the Security Council.
Throughout the years of conflict in Syria, Argentina has maintained an anti-intervention and anti-military approach regarding the international community’s involvement. Specifically, the Argentine government has pushed for dialogue between the warring parties within Syria. Hector Timerman, the Argentine minister of foreign affairs, notes that his country has proposed initiatives such as “a weapons embargo, humanitarian assistance, and an emergency meeting of the General Assembly” to address the ongoing violence.
Allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians did not sway Buenos Aires’ stance. In August, Timerman declared that “Argentina will never propose or support a foreign military intervention. The Argentine people will not be complicit in new deaths.” An August communiqué released by his ministry emphasized that “for the Republic of Argentina, the conditions are not present for a foreign military intervention since in spite of the time that has passed and the hundreds of thousands of victims, all the mechanisms established by international law have not been utilized.”
In early September, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the G-20 summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She reportedly proposed to the UN leader that the chancellors of the 15 member states on the Security Council travel to Syria to see if a ceasefire could be achieved. At the time of this writing, no further development has been reported on this proposal.
Argentina’s opposition to military intervention in Syria fits with its previous history of keeping out of foreign conflicts. Ariel Gonzalez Levaggi, executive director of the Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales (CAEI), a foreign policy think tank in Buenos Aires, explained that “Argentina has a tradition of neutrality that was modified in the 1990s but has continued during the era of Kirchner rule. The Argentine government was against the invasion of Iraq, the attack against Libya, and now Syria.”
It is worth noting that some Syrian expatriates in Argentina occupy positions in governmental offices. The extent to which this Syrian community is influential enough to affect Argentine foreign policy is under debate. In early September around 50 members of the Syrian community in Buenos Aires protested against U.S. military intervention outside the Syrian embassy.
Some Argentine analysts have declared that escalating the war in Syria could have detrimental effects for Argentina, particularly in terms of energy. In a September 7 article published in the Argentine daily La Nación, experts explained that an expanded war could increase the price of oil, which would hurt the South American state’s already dire economy. One analyst explained how, since 2009, Argentine exports to the Arab world have grown by 20 percent, and prolonged warfare could hurt Arab countries’ demand for Argentine exports.
Argentina’s anti-intervention stance is in line with the positions of most other South American governments. At a UNASUR summit in Suriname on August 30, they signed a declaration condemning “external interventions” in Syria and calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. CARICOM’s Secretariat passed a similar resolution in early September, condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria but also urging the international community not to engage in military actions against the Assad regime.
Not all Latin American nations share this view, however. Guatemala, which holds the region’s other Security Council seat, has openly expressed its support for U.S. intervention in Syria. “We clearly and definitely support the decision that the U.S. president has taken so that chemical weapons, which cause mass deaths, will not be utilized again,” said President Otto Perez Molina on September 1. “That is Guatemala’s position.”
It is unsurprising that Guatemala is siding with Washington, as the country’s government has long had close relations with the United States. Guatemala receives significant amounts of aid from Washington ($110 million in 2011 and an estimated $95 million in 2012) and wants to see this kind of assistance continue. Agreeing with Washington’s foreign policy decisions is an easy way for the country’s right-wing government to maintain ties based on security initiatives (like Operación Martillo) and trade (CAFTA).
As a representative on the UNSC, therefore, Argentina has been accurately reflecting the stance against military intervention held by other South American and Caribbean governments. This fits with the country’s drive to forge a regional politics more independent of Washington. Guatemala’s stance, by contrast, harkens back to an earlier era when Washington’s dictates largely set the tone for the hemisphere.
Nevertheless, the final point that needs to be addressed is whether Argentina, or even a united South America and Caribbean, have had any relevance in the decision making process in Washington, Beijing, London, Paris, or Moscow regarding intervention in Syria. The short answer is no.
In Syria, Buenos Aires, Lima, Montevideo, and Kingston have had little influence (or none at all) in what the powers-that-be have decided. While the aversion of Western military strikes on Syria may be considered a relief, the way it was achieved exemplifies how little weight agencies like the United Nations—and particularly the non-permanent members of the Security Council and the Global South in general—continue to have in global security affairs.
W. Alejandro Sanchez is a Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Follow Alejandro via Twitter.
President Obama is in St. Petersburg, Russia to participate in the G20 Summit today and tomorrow, amidst a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and several G20 member nations. Looming over the summit are the Obama administration’s plans for a possible military attack on Syria, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that a U.S. military response without U.N. Security Council approval “can only be interpreted as an aggression” and UNASUR – which includes G20 members Argentina and Brazil, issued a statement that “condemns external interventions that are inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”
New revelations of NSA spying on other G20 member nation presidents – Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico – leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and first reported in Brazil’s O Globo, have also created new frictions. Rousseff is reportedly considering canceling a state visit to Washington next month over the espionage and the Obama administration’s response to the revelations, and reportedly has canceled a scheduled trip to D.C. next week by an advance team that was to have done preparations for her visit. The Brazilian government has demanded an apology from the Obama administration. In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, an anonymous senior Brazilian official underscored the gravity of the situation:
[T]he official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the episode, said Rousseff feels “patronized” by the U.S. response so far to the Globo report. She is prepared to cancel the visit as well as take punitive action, including ruling out the purchase of F-18 Super Hornet fighters from Chicago-based Boeing Co, the official said.
“She is completely furious,” the official said.
“This is a major, major crisis …. There needs to be an apology. It needs to be public. Without that, it’s basically impossible for her to go to Washington in October,” the official said.
Other media reports suggest that Brazil may implement measures to channel its Internet communications through non-U.S. companies. But when asked in a press briefing aboard Air Force One this morning, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes did not suggest that such an apology would be forthcoming:
Q The Foreign Minister said he wanted an apology.
MR. RHODES: Well, I think — what we’re focused on is making sure the Brazilians understand exactly what the nature of our intelligence effort is. We carry out intelligence like just about every other country around the world. If there are concerns that we can address consistent with our national security requirements, we will aim to do so through our bilateral relationship.
Such responses are not likely to go far toward patching things up with Brazil. It is conspicuously dishonest to suggest that the U.S. government “carr[ies] out intelligence like just about every other country around the world,” as no other country is known to have the capacity for the level of global spying that the NSA and other agencies conduct, and few countries are likely to have the intelligence budgets enjoyed by U.S. agencies – currently totaling some $75.6 billion, according to documents leaked by Snowden and reported by the Washington Post.
There are also signs that the Washington foreign policy establishment is troubled by the Obama administration’s dismissive attitude toward Brazil’s understandable outrage. On Tuesday, McClatchy cited Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue – essentially the voice of the Latin America policy establishment in Washington:
Peter Hakim, the president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy group, noted that Secretary of State John Kerry had visited Brasilia last month to patch things up after the initial NSA leaks but “really did not do a very good job. He just brushed it off.”
Hakim said he believed the O Globo report, and he added that “snooping at presidents is disrespectful and offensive.”
Rousseff and Pena Nieto had to issue strong statements, Hakim said. “Both have to show they are not pushovers, that they can stand up to the U.S.,” he said.
The ongoing revelations made by Snowden have affected U.S. relations with other countries as well. As the Pan-American Post points out, Peña Nieto may continue to reduce intelligence sharing with the U.S.; he also said yesterday that “he may discuss the issue with President Barack Obama at the summit.” U.S.-Russian relations, of course, have also recently become tense following Russia’s granting of temporary political asylum to Snowden.
The G20 Summit also comes just after the IMF, at the direction of the U.S. Treasury Department, changed its plan to support the Argentine government in its legal battle with “vulture funds” – meaning that U.S.-Argentine relations may also be relatively cool.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has approved plans for an optic fibre mega-ring which will break its members’ “dependence on the US, and provide a safer and cheaper means of communication.”
The fibre optic ring will become part of a ten-year plan to physically integrate all 12 UNASUR member states. The line, which will reach up to 10,000 kilometres long and will be managed by state enterprises from each country it crosses, is expected to interconnect South America through higher coverage and cheaper internet connections.
Industrial Minister of Uruguay, Roberto Kreimerman, explained that “it is about having a connection with great capacity that allows us to unite our countries together with the developed world.”
He continued to say, “We are considering that, at most, in a couple of years we will have one of these rings finalised.” He also added that ”I think the economy, security, and integration are the three important things we need in countries where Internet use is advancing exponentially.”
At the moment, up to 80% of Latin America’s communications go through the US. However, plans for an independent communication line comes shortly after the US was discovered to have been spying on Latin American data. The National Security Agency (NSA) were revealed to have been monitoring emails and intercepting telephone logs, spying on energy, military, politics, and terror activity across the continent.
UNASUR is made up of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
“The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.” Simon Bolivar
Throughout the day, on August 6, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner of Argentina chaired a historic United Nations Security Council meeting that revealed a seismic shift in geopolitical consciousness and incipient strength.
The agenda of Security Council meeting 7015 was: “Cooperation Between the United Nations and Regional and Sub-regional Organizations in Maintaining International Peace and Security.”
The prelude to this meeting was held, the prior day, August 5, at a press stakeout given by Elias Jaua Milano, Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Hector Timerman, Foreign Minister of Argentina, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Foreign Minister of Brazil, Luis Almagro, Foreign Minister of Uruguay and David Choquehuanca Cespedes, Foreign Minister of Bolivia.
They spoke on behalf of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, following their meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Their remarks focused on the expression of outrage contained in the “Annex to the note verbale dated 22 July from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, which stated:
“Decision rejecting the acts of espionage conducted by the United States in the countries of the region.” “The President of the Argentine Republic, the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay and the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, having met in Montevideo, Eastern Republic of Uruguay, on 12 July, 2013, within the framework of the presidential summit of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR),
Condemning the acts of espionage carried out by intelligence agencies of the United States of America , which affect all countries in the region,
Strongly rejecting the interception of telecommunications and the acts of espionage carried out in our countries, which constitute a violation of the human rights, the right to privacy and the right to information of our citizens, and which also constitute unacceptable behavior that violates our sovereignty and is detrimental to the normal conduct of relations among nations,
Considering the advisability of promoting a coordinated approach to this issue at the regional level,
Work together to guarantee the cybersecurity of the States members to MERCOSUR, which is essential to defending the sovereignty of our countries,
Demand that those responsible immediately cease these activities and provide an explanation of the motives for and consequences of such activities,
Stress that the prevention of crime and the suppression of transnational crimes, including terrorism, must be carried out in line with the rule of law and in strict observance of international law.
Promote the adoption by the relevant multilateral institutions of standards for the regulation of the Internet which place a particular emphasis on cybersecurity issues, with a view to fostering the adoption of standards that guarantee the adequate protection of communications, in particular to safeguard the sovereignty of States and the privacy of individuals,
Express our full solidarity with all countries, within and outside our region that have been victims of such actions,
Promote the joint efforts of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs to inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations of these incidents and request prevention and sanction mechanisms on the issue at the multilateral level
Instruct the delegations of the Member States participating in the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly to jointly present a formal proposal to that end,
Request the Argentine Republic to submit this matter to the Security Council for consideration,
Agree to establish a working group to coordinate efforts, together with the South American Defence Council and the South American Infrastructure and Planning Council, aimed at carrying out activities that will render our telecommunications more secure and reduce our dependence on foreign technology.”
The morning session of the August 6 Security Council meeting consisted primarily of technical diplomatic presentations. Following Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement, Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez Parrella opened the meeting, as President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC):
“The history of Latin American and the Caribbean has changed. Two hundred years after our independence, the ideas of ‘a Nation of Republics,’ and of ‘Our America’ envisaged by Bolivar and Marti, respectively, are taking shape. Thus, our Heads of State and Government decided in the Caracas Declaration that ‘in accordance with the original mandate of our liberators, CELAC must move forward in the process of political, economic, social and cultural integration – based on a wise equilibrium between the unity and diversity of our peoples … Upon founding CELAC, our Heads of State and Government reiterated our commitment to the building of a more just, equitable and harmonious international order based on respect for international law and the Charter of the United Nations. … They reaffirmed our commitment to the defense of sovereignty and the right of any state to establish its own political system, free from threats, aggression and unilateral coercive measures, and in an environment of peace, stability, justice, democracy and respect for human rights. CELAC reiterates that there can be no lasting peace without development and the eradication of poverty, hunger and inequality … CELAC has adopted a unanimous position with regard to some far-reaching topics on the international agenda, such as, for example, Argentina’s legitimate claim in the dispute concerning the sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, and – today on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima – on so-called nuclear disarmament.”
The representatives of other regional organizations, and the members of the Security Council delivered their statements throughout the morning session of the meeting
When the Security Council resumed for the afternoon session, in a courageous and brilliant tour de force, the Argentine Presidency of the Security Council availed itself of the opportunity to publicly denounce espionage in the service of the resurgence of neo-liberal capitalist imperialism. In an unusual gesture of solidarity and support (considering that Heads of State chairing Security Council meetings seldom remain beyond a perfunctory appearance at the morning session), President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval were present throughout the afternoon, as the succession of dazzling speeches, delivered by the Latin American Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador illuminated the global menace threatened by the United States National Security Agency programs of surveillance of phone records, e-mails, web-browsing, those very programs disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The foreign ministers of Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador fiercely condemned the United States plan for worldwide espionage, which posed a lethal threat to the democratically elected governments of these Latin American nations and jeopardized their survival.
It is not surprising that this expression of alarm was voiced by Latin America, from Argentina through Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela – in other words from the Southernmost tip of the huge southern continent to the Caribbean, for this continent, viewed imperialistically as the “backyard” of the United States, was for many tragic decades, crushed by military dictatorships inflicting state terror with impunity, following the blueprint of destabilization and overthrow, by the CIA and multinational corporate controlled entities, of their own democratically elected leaders. The tragic destruction of Latin America’s democratically elected governments included President Arbenz in Guatemala, 1954; President Goulart in Brazil, 1964; President Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, 1965; President Torres in Bolivia, 1971; President Allende in Chile, 1973, and more recently the destabilizations of the democratically elected governments of Honduras and Paraguay (this is not a complete list)
This more than half-century violation of the will of the people of Latin America, engineered by agencies of “the Colossus of the North” was a shattering trauma seared deeply into the consciousness of these leaders, whose recent triumph over fascist military dictatorships which were installed and supported by the United States, is a testament to their moral and intellectual strength and their passion for dignity and control over their own destinies. The Latin American governments speaking at the August 6 Security Council are like the canary in the coal mine: intensely alert and sensitive to imminent or potential threats of repetition of that horrific period they had endured and so recently overcome, these governments denounced widespread evidence of perilous subversive activity, the lethal consequences of which are predictable and terrifying.
The August 6, 2013 afternoon session of the UN Security Council began with Mr. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Foreign Minister of Brazil, who stated, in English:
“You, Madam President made my task easier by referring to the interception of communications and acts of espionage. Such practices violate sovereignty, harm relations between nations and constitute a violation of human rights, inn particular the right to privacy and the right of our citizens to information. In that respect, you have complied with the decision of the States parties of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) who met in Montevideo last month. Yesterday, the Foreign Minister of MERCOSUR conveyed to the Secretary-General the position of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela with respect to and in compliance with, that decision. The matter will also be placed before various United Nations bodies, in accordance with the decision and the document circulated under the symbol A/67/946. This is a very serious issue with a profound impact on the international system. Brazil is coordinating with countries that share similar concerns for the benefit of an international order that respects human rights and the sovereignty of states.
I welcome the timely statement made on 12 July by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay: ‘surveillance programmes without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.’ Pillay also mentioned Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 17 and 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which established, respectively, that ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence,’ and that ‘Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’
Brazil also associates itself with the repeated appeals by Ms. Pillay in various forums that efforts to combat terrorism must necessarily respect human rights and humanitarian law. Her position was incorporated into the decision of the Heads of State of MERCOSUR as well as the Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2013/12) adopted by the Council this morning… Mention should be made of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)… .a defense alliance that does not seem to frame its activities clearly under Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations and has made use of concepts and strategies that raise problematic and sensitive issues in terms of the articulation between the regional level and the United Nations system. We are concerned that, historically, leaders of NATO and member countries have considered that the organization does not necessarily require explicit authorization from the Security Council to resort to coercion.
We are also concerned that NATO has loosely interpreted mandates for action aimed at promoting international peace and security authorized by the Security Council. As Brazil has maintained, including through the Brazilian concept of ‘responsibility while protecting,’ (S/2011/701, annex), the Security Council should avail itself of the institutional means of monitoring the adequate fulfillment of its mandates.
We are concerned, as well that NATO has been searching to establish partnerships out of its area, far beyond the North Atlantic, including in regions of peace, democracy and social inclusion, and that rule out the presence of weapons of mass destruction in their territories. It would be extremely grave for the future of the articulation between regional and global efforts at promoting peace, as prescribed by the United Nations, if groups of countries started to unilaterally define their sphere of action beyond the territory of their own members.”
Next, Mr. David Choquehuanca Cespedes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia spoke:
“Preserving peace is not and will not be the result of the existence of international policemen, but rather as a result of the promotion of social justice, equity, complementarity, solidarity and respect between states… I should like to express our rejection and condemnation of the practice of espionage on the part of the United States. I should also like to express the grief and indignation of my people and my Government over the act of aggression experienced by President Evo Morales Ayma, which has been described by the international community as offensive, humiliating, discriminatory, colonialistic, unfriendly and a violation of human rights and international standards. Given the grave nature of these facts, we ask the United Nations to clarify these events and to take measures to guarantee human rights and international law so that no one will have to suffer such violations again.”
Next, His Excellency, Mr. Elias Jaua Milano, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Pro-Tempore President of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) stated:
“Today we join in the pleasure of the Bolivian people on its national holiday, and recall the commemoration of the 200 years of the triumphant entry of the liberator Simon Bolivar after having carried out a successful campaign that began in December of 1812 in New Grenada. We must always remember that, when united, we South Americans will achieve independence, equality and democracy for our peoples…. Peace cannot be achieved in the world without social justice and without eradicating once and for all hunger, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and the wide technological divides, in other words, without guaranteeing to all the resources necessary for their full development in equal conditions…. The instruments, declarations, decisions and resolutions of MERCOSUR have sought democracy and peace in the region, including by preventing coups and other attempts to frustrate the democratic will of our peoples, promoted by fascistic movements represented by political and economic leaders that are found particularly in media corporations. These movements attack democratic governments and peoples that have chosen the path of independence, social inclusion and the grass-roots democratization of our societies….
The timely and firm action of MERCOSUR along with other regional and sub-regional organizations, managed to stop attempted coups in Paraguay in 1996 and 1999, thereby guaranteeing democratic order. Similarly, in 2006 and 2007 MERCOSUR condemned and took action to prevent attempts to divide Bolivia as a way of weakening the democratic government of President Evo Morales. Likewise, the Foreign Ministers of the countries members of MERCOSUR condemned the attempted coup against President Rafael Correa in Ecuador on 30 September 2010, joining with other regional blocs to issue a joint warning to the world and prevent that crime from taking place. Although it could not be prevented, MERCOSUR acted decisively in the parliamentary coup against President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay in June, 2012. On that occasion the foreign ministers of MERCOSUR and UNASUR traveled to Asuncion with the intention of starting a dialogue and preventing the interruption of the constitutional order. That was not achieved, and the bloc had to temporarily suspend the Republic of Paraguay until its political, institutional and democratic situation was normalized through the holding of elections. More recently, MERCOSUR has been able to circumvent those situations with peaceful and democratic mechanisms, without economic blocades, military intervention, indiscriminate bombing or armed intervention of any kind. We believe that the only way to defeat violence is with greater democracy and peaceful means. Mercosur has also participated in issues that affect international peace and security, such as the coup in Honduras against President Zelaya…
Unfortunately in recent times we have been concerned to see that some countries have continued to assert their political, military and economic power and distorted the very essence of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations. They have gone so far as to use the Security Council as a platform to encourage armed interventions against sovereign states and peoples with a view to promoting the poorly named regime change, in contravention of all principles of International Law… as Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and as Pro-Tempore President of MERCOSUR I take this opportunity to reiterate our firm condemnation of the insult to the office of the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, President Evo Morales, when some European Governments did not permit the overflight or landing of the aircraft transporting him. That was not only a hostile, unfounded, discriminatory and arbitrary action, but also a flagrant violation of the precepts of international law.”
“Similarly, we reject the actions of global espionage carried out by the government of the United States , which undermine the sovereignty of States and which we have become familiar with through the revelations of the former security contractor, Edward Snowden. Given the seriousness of these reports of computer espionage on a global scale, recognized by the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union himself, the United Nations must initiate a broad multilateral discussion that would make it possible to design agreements to safeguard the sovereignty and security of States in the light of such illegal practices. MERCOSUR has begun action to promote a discussion on this matter so that we can open an appropriate investigation within the United Nations and punish and condemn this violation of international law.”
“We reiterate our condemnation of actions that could undermine the power of States to fully implement the right of humanitarian asylum. In this respect, we reject any attempt to pressure, harass or criminalize a state or third party over the sovereign decision of any nation to grant asylum, which is enshrined in all international conventions. Likewise, we express our solidarity with the Governments of Bolivia and Nicaragua , which, like Venezuela, have offered asylum to Mr. Snowden, as expressed by the Heads of State of MERCOSUR in the decision concerning the universal recognition of the right of political asylum, issued in Montevideo on 12 July. These three matters were discussed yesterday with the Secretary-General of the United Nations”
In her remarkable work, entitled “The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” (published in 2007) journalist Naomi Klein states, page 573:
“Though clearly drawing on a long militant history, Latin America ’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks of the past – the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the U.S. trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses of the eighties and nineties. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. …
Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future U.S. backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. The governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina and Uruguay have all announced they will no longer send students to the School of Americas, the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest I “counterterrorism” (torture) techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina…. If the U.S. military does not have bases or training programs, its power to inflict shocks will be greatly eroded…
Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego….
Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington, and even Argentina, Washington’s former ‘model pupil’ has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union Address (the late) President Nestor Kirchner said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him, ‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt. We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.’ As a result the IMF, supremely powerful in the eighties, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio, in 2007 the continent represented just 1 percent – a sea change in only two years. ‘There is life after the IMF,’ Kirchner declared, ‘and it is a good life.’”
Having resisted foreign (and domestic) military control, and foreign (and neoliberal) economic control, the new peril confronting Latin America’s independent governments emanates from the United States’ National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programs, an insidious new cyber-age method of total social control of the most private and intimate spaces of their lives – and identities, their minds, destroying their capacity to forge networks of solidarity and obtain the information crucial to their understanding and critical thinking, without which they are vulnerable to being reduced to the condition of the “zombies” (so popular in Hollywood’s movie narrative), rendering them confused, docile, easily herded, subjugated, ultimately exploited and enslaved. This surveillance is tantamount to imposing total individual and societal control, which is a stealthy form of isolation, a form of psychological and intellectual solitary confinement, one of the cruelest forms of torture, which ultimately leads to the disintegration of the human personality, within an invisible prison.
This condition is described by the American Civil Liberties Union, and quoted in Charles Savage’s August 8 report to The New York Times:
“Hints of the surveillance appeared in a set of rules, leaked by Mr. Snowden, for how the NSA may carry out the 2008 FISA law. One paragraph mentions that the agency ‘seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target.’ The pages were posted online by the newspaper The Guardian on June 20, but the telltale paragraph, the only rule marked ‘Top Secret’ amid 18 pages of restrictions, went largely overlooked amid other disclosures…. While the paragraph hinting at the surveillance has attracted little attention, the American Civil Liberties Union did take note of the ‘about the target’ language in a June 21 post analyzing the larger set of rules, arguing that the language could be interpreted as allowing ‘bulk collection of international communications, including those of Americans’…. Jameel Jaffer, a senior lawyer at the ACLU said Wednesday that such ‘dragnet surveillance will be poisonous to the freedoms of inquiry and association’ because people who know that their communications will be searched will change their behavior. ‘They’ll hesitate before visiting controversial web sites, discussing controversial topics or investigating politically sensitive questions. Individually, these hesitations might appear to be inconsequential, but the accumulation of them over time will change citizens’ relationship to one another and to the government.’”
The infrastructure for de facto fascist police state and military control is being established under the guise of counterterrorism, (as, earlier, similar fascist states were established under the guise of fighting communism) a phenomena Latin America recognizes and knows from horrific historic experience. And their historic memory of this has not yet been expunged: indeed, many of the leaders of Latin America today were earlier imprisoned and tortured only a few decades ago under such fascist police and military states (established ostensibly in the name of anti-communism), including Chile’s former, and possibly future President Michelle Bachelet, Brazil’s President Dilma Roussef, Argentina’s late President Nestor Kirchner, and the world famous father of Argentina’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, the late Jacobo Timerman, imprisoned and tortured for two years during the Argentine military dictatorship’s “dirty war.” No doubt, Uruguay ’s President Jose Mujica well remembers those horrors, and Chile ’s former President Ricardo Lago spent considerable time in prison during the Pinochet dictatorship.
Patino Aroca, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, next delivered, at the August 6 Security Council meeting, one of the great speeches in United Nations history.
“During the recent summit of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) that took place on 12 July in Montevideo, the States convened resolved to ‘request Argentina to submit the matter of the massive espionage case uncovered by Edward Snowden for consideration by the Security Council.’ They also resolved to ‘demand that those responsible for those actions immediately cease therefrom and provide explanations of their motivations and their consequences.’ In similar terms, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America spoke at the last Guayaquil summit which was held just five days ago, when it was decided to ‘warn the international community about the seriousness of these actions, which imply a threat to the security and peaceful coexistence among our States”…
“Just a few weeks ago the world saw a sequence of events more akin to a Cold War spy novel than to modern times. On 5 June, leaks began to appear in publications in major global media outlets, leaks that were mixed with almost deathly intent and unspooled as a reality show before global public opinion. The leaks came from a former 29-year-old American analyst who sought to escape deportation to his country, where he would be tried for those leaks. After a journey that began in Hong Kong and was supposed to end in Latin America, today, it seems to have stopped, but it may not have completely run its course, despite the granting of asylum by Russia.”
“During those few days in June we saw the size and the discretional nature of a massive surveillance apparatus that suddenly brought all the inhabitants of the planet closer than ever to an Orwellian nightmare. Although at first it appeared to be a simple matter of wiretapping, it was later discovered that there was discretionary monitoring of e-mails. While it seemed initially that the apparatus was being used in operations against organized crime, later we learned that it was also being used to gain advantage in trade negotiations with other countries. If we once thought that they were simply looking at unaffected States, we now know that everyone — absolutely everyone, debtors and creditors, friends and enemies, South and North – is considered a usual suspect by the authorities of the United States of America. Now we know that our communications are permanently monitored by them.”
“No one knows yet if Mr. Snowden will once again manage to leak information that he claims to possess. Of course, it seems that he will not do it when he is in Russia. In any case, the wounds opened by those events should be assessed within the main multilateral forums. They deserve to be so because not only do they reflect an unacceptable imbalance in the global governance system, which in no case would help to build a climate of trust and cooperation between countries, and, in the final analysis, a climate of peace among nations. They deserve to be assessed because we have also moved dangerously close to the limits set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“The imbalances to which I refer are clear – the United States, like any other countries, has the need to deal with demands related to its national security, it goes without saying, but those legitimate demands must be dealt with in a way that does not affect the rights of individuals or indeed the sovereignty of other nations. That is to say, limits must be set. However, we are now faced with the fact that any limits there may have been have vanished. The national security of the United States has been placed above all universal moral values.”
“Such a drive has meant that the principles of equality and non-interference in the affairs of States, established in the Westphalia peace agreement, have now vanished into thin air. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been violated. The rights to the privacy of correspondence – article 12 – and to freedom of expression and opinion – article 19 – the rights of all citizens of the world, including United States citizens, have been trampled in the name of a greater goal, that is, national security – or rather, for the sake of the profits of the national security industry.”
“What are the limits, really? Has the time not come for the Council to take up this question again and discuss it? In the end, does this not pose a threat to global peace? What mutual trust could possibly exist among nations under such circumstances? We believe that the time has come for the United Nations to face up to this matter responsibly.”
“As we have seen with the disappearance of such limits, this situation threatens to build walls between our countries. If it has not done so already, it could also affect international cooperation against organized crime; strangely enough, there is even the possibility that trade negotiations could be disrupted. Paradoxically, even the very national security of the United States will suffer from the increase in global mistrust generated by massive espionage.”
“The events to which I have referred have also revealed other very disturbing realities. To start off with, it has re-ignited the debate on the right of asylum, which all human beings have, as enshrined in international law, as well as the ability of any sovereign state to grant it. This is a right that is granted to avoid fear of political persecution; its legitimacy can only be determined by the country granting it. Let us also remember its peaceful and humanitarian nature, which cannot in any case be described as unfriendly towards any other State, as established in General Assembly resolution 2312 (XXII) on territorial asylum. I should also quote Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the case at hand: ‘Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy.’”
“Leaders who should be giving explanations and facing up to the debate on the limits of what we are discussing, have instead launched a crusade against the right to asylum – a full-on diplomatic offensive against countries that have taken to the global stage to show interest in such an important case. States in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) have been under pressure, simply because they are considering a request for asylum. All those countries have signed the 1954 Caracas Convention on Territorial Asylum, which is perhaps one of the most important instruments of the Inter-American human rights system.”
“The day the United States signs that treaty – even the day it ratifies the San Jose pact, one of the foundations of the Inter-American system of human rights – we will be closer to seeing that country adhere to the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, and it will become a part of a group of equal nations, committed to complying with international law.”
“Instead of joining this group, we find ourselves with a country that prefers to lunge forwards and blame the messenger in order to cloud the message. The final result was that a group of countries decided to endanger the life of the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, forcing him and his entourage to make an emergency landing in violation of international norms governing respectful relations among nations.”
“It is not the revelation of the offence that threatens the climate of understanding among nations, it is the offence itself. In a fragile world where armed conflicts are barely affected by international pressure, such actions do not help generate trust but tension.”
“I would like to conclude with two comments.”
“First, the Government of Ecuador fully supports the request of the Bolivian Government that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights conduct an exhaustive investigation into the unjustifiable treatment suffered by President Evo Morales Ayma during his trip from Moscow to La Paz.”
“Secondly, massive global, discretionary and unlimited surveillance must stop. It is for the Security Council to urgently make that demand of one of its permanent members, since, theoretically, it is up to this body to maintain peace on our planet. That, too, is the demand of Latin America, a zone of peace that, through organizations such as MERCOSUR and ALBA, has demanded an end to those practices. It is also required by the spirit of coexistence, which inspired the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations. It is also the appeal of billions of people in the world who understand that any action that aims to ensure the security of a country has its limits, which are the human rights of everyone on the planet.”
The representative of the United States, Mr. DeLaurentis replied:
“Let me address an issue unrelated to our debate that was raised earlier today, namely, the United States efforts to prevent terrorism and the recent disclosure of classified information about techniques we use to do that. All Governments do things that are secret: it is a fact of modern governing and a necessity in the light of the threats all our citizens face. Our counter-Terrorism policy is ultimately about saving people’s lives, which is why the United States works with other countries to protect our citizens and those of other nations from many threats. All nations should be concerned about the damage these disclosures can cause to our ability to collectively defend against those threats.”
Contradicting this assertion, a senior United States intelligence official said, regarding the ‘about the target’ surveillance that it “was difficult to point to any particular terrorist plot that would have been carried out if the surveillance had not taken place.” He said it was one tool among many used to assemble a ‘mosaic’ of information in such investigations. “The surveillance was used for other types of foreign-intelligence collection, not just terrorism investigations,” the official said. This admission that this surveillance is not limited to preventing terrorism is the most damning indictment of the secrecy of the program.
The American people, whose taxes pay for these programs, have an inalienable right to know what are the “other” uses to which these surveillance programs are being put, in their name. Powerfully refuting any contention that these surveillance activities are for the purpose of preventing terrorism is the testimony of United States Senator, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, who said he had been shown a classified list of “terrorist events” detected through surveillance, and it did not show that ‘dozens or even several terrorist plots’ had been thwarted by the domestic program. “If this program if not effective, it has to end. So far I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen,” Senator Leahy said, denouncing ‘the massive privacy implications’ of keeping records of every American’s domestic calls.
What really is the purpose of this NSA program of global surveillance? Failing to significantly thwart terrorist activity, it must have an ultimate purpose. The possibilities are terrifying. The hysterical, desperate and deadly determination to arrest Snowden suggests that he may have uncovered something further, something so illegal that the authors of such crimes will not hesitate to endanger the very lives they claim to be protecting, in order to prevent exposure. The frantic orchestration of the actions endangering the life of the President of Bolivia makes this conclusion unavoidable.
The August 6 Security Council meeting under the Presidency of Argentina re-enforced the credibility of the United Nations. The Government of Argentina and her courageous sister nations of Latin America have thrown down the gauntlet on behalf of the majority of the citizens of this planet.
- Argentine President Urges Re-think of UN Security Council (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mercosur complains to Ban Ki-moon on US global espionage and EU affront towards Bolivia’s Evo Morales (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions
This month, readers of The Atlantic were treated to a lengthy article documenting alarming threats to democracy in certain Latin American countries with progressive and leftist heads of government. The piece, written by Kurt Weyland and titled “Why Latin America is Becoming Less Democratic,” is riddled with significant errors and mischaracterizations. Perhaps even worse, editors at The Atlantic didn’t make clear that the article was first published in a “journal” that is funded by the U.S. government.
The original article was published in the Journal of Democracy, which has long focused on providing analysis to justify U.S. government intervention abroad. The Journal of Democracy is an official publication of the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) International Forum for Democratic Studies. Although nominally a “nongovernmental” organization, the NED receives most of its funding from the U.S. Congress. In 1991, Allen Weinstein, who helped found and then became the NED’s acting president, told the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA” .
Some examples of the NED’s work include using U.S. government resources to fund groups and individuals involved in the short-lived 2002 coup d’état in Venezuela, and two years later funding organizers of the recall effort against then-president Hugo Chávez. One of the NED’s core grantees is the International Republican Institute, which played a major role in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Haiti in 2004.
These are just a few examples that highlight the NED’s disreputable history in Latin America, which would take far more space than a blog post to tell. While it clearly would have been worth noting the source of the article, the article itself is full of both factual errors and egregious mischaracterizations. To keep this post brief, I’ll only review a few of the most egregious errors here.
- Weyland writes: “Since the third wave reached Latin America in 1978, the region had seen only occasional threats and temporary interruptions of democracy in individual nations.”
This statement is only reasonable if one completely ignores the U.S. government’s role in the region, which constituted a threat to democracy that was neither “temporary” nor limited to “individual nations.” Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. conducted a massive and well-organized campaign, especially in Central America, using Cold War pretexts to install and support leaders who would foster favorable conditions for U.S. business interests.
In Nicaragua, the campaign involved massive illegal military aid to the contra paramilitary forces who used those weapons to kill health care workers, teachers and elected officials in their fight against the democratically-elected Sandinista government, bringing condemnation from the World Court, as well as Amnesty International, Americas Watch and other human rights groups and international bodies.
At the same time, the U.S.-backed Guatemalan General José Efraín Ríos Montt, massacred and tortured the people of Guatemala — with U.N. estimates indicating over 200,000 were killed or disappeared in acts of genocide. The same Cold War premise of fighting “communists” was used to justify large-scale atrocities in El Salvador and Honduras. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the U.S. supported brutal dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, and other countries, and militarily invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989). More recently, of course, the U.S. supported coups in Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti.
It could not be more clear that democracy in Latin America is threatened and actually has been compromised on many occasions by the U.S.’s foreign policy, especially in the post-1978 period that Weyland names. Rewriting history to minimize and erase these events serves the interests of the U.S. government, so it is perhaps no surprise that publications like the Journal of Democracy carry out this work diligently, but when government propaganda makes its way into independent publications like The Atlantic without comment, it is cause for alarm, especially when there are numerous factual errors.
- Weyland writes that “Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina (2007-), whose fervent supporters take inspiration from Chávez, is eyeing constitutional changes and renewed reelection.”
Fact check: President Cristina Fernández has not said anything to this effect. She has proposed constitutional amendments focused on reforms to the judiciary, and she has already addressed the Argentine congress specifically, saying that she is not planning to pursue reforms that would allow her to run for a third consecutive term. Weyland would be right in noting that some of her supporters floated the idea of a third term, but Weyland’s claim as written is simply not true. If this seems like a minor point, consider that Honduran ex-president Manuel Zelaya’s support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was misreported in the media as a bid to extend his presidency and was used as a justification for his removal both within Honduras and internationally. Weyland perpetuates this myth, saying that Zelaya “was stopped” before he could “boost the presidency’s powers and pave the way toward indefinite reelection to that office.” By presenting the coup that removed Zelaya as an event that forestalled a nondemocratic turn, in particular saying nothing about events following the coup, much of Weyland’s argument supposedly in favor of democracy in Latin America is rendered moot.
- “That Venezuela had already fallen under nondemocratic rule was confirmed in October 2012 by Chávez’s unfair reelection, achieved with the help of intimidation tactics, tight restrictions on the opposition, and the massive misuse of the state apparatus.”
The 2012 elections in Venezuela were declared free and fair by election accompanying groups and by monitors such as the Carter Center, which noted that “the whole opposition leadership, including, most importantly, Capriles himself, unequivocally reject those claims [of election fraud favoring Chávez], stating that the results reflected the will of the electorate.” Journalists and human rights watchers monitoring the electoral process praised the system while giving detailed reports about what they saw.
- “With its electoral façade and progressive rhetoric about helping the excluded, the soft authoritarianism that is taking hold in parts of Latin America has an attractive face.”
In sweeping statements such as this one, Weyland casts doubt on both the electoral victories and the policies of progressive and left governments in Latin America. He suggests that the people’s will is not represented in the official outcomes of national elections, and even if left-wing politicians seem popular that is because they trick and/or intimidate citizens and do not deliver on promises to the poor and other disenfranchised sectors of society.
Actually, these are not elections whose legitimacy is seriously questioned by any but those on the extreme right. And the implication that progressive and left governments are limiting their policies to “progressive rhetoric,” is absurd. The overall trend in the countries that have elected progressive and left leaders has been the enactment of policy alternatives to neoliberalism, and their effect has been large reductions in income inequality, a reduction in poverty, and provision of health care, education and important services to many people who previously could not access them. These policies have included reforming and regulating the financial sector in Ecuador, investing oil profits into social missions in Venezuela, and successfully managing a large financial crisis and debt default in Argentina — resulting in only one quarter of negative economic growth followed by nine years of some of the highest growth in the region.
Weyland’s reference to an “electoral façade” betrays the central goal of the NED: what sociologist William Robinson refers to as “promoting polyarchy.” As opposed to experiments in direct democracy occurring on various levels in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, the NED ultimately promotes only representative forms of democracy, or polyarchy. In Robinson’s definition, this is “a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation in decision-making is confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites.” In Venezuela, Chávez’s Bolivarian project did away with a polyarchic system, and across much of the continent NED-backed parties and candidates have failed in election after election. When Washington’s candidates don’t win, often the elections are depicted as illegitimate and sometimes the electoral process is attacked – as seen with the most recent Venezuelan election, or with the U.S.’ interference, via the OAS, in Haiti’s last presidential election.
- “As soon as [Chávez] was elected president of Venezuela, he set about revamping the country’s institutional framework. First, he called a constituent assembly.”
Weyland’s claims here come after stating that “graver and more sustained danger is coming from the leftist variant” of populism than the rightist version, but is the Venezuelan constituent assembly really evidence of anti-democratic tendencies? No again. Calling for a constituent assembly was exactly what Venezuelans elected Chávez to do. Ending the ossified political arrangement known as “Punto Fijo” – in which political parties routinely alternated in and out of power – and calling a constituent assembly were key campaign promises he made ahead of the 1998 elections. Chávez was fulfilling his campaign promises– a much more infrequent phenomenon in the U.S.
- “[Ecuadorean president Rafael] Correa also seized on a 2010 police rebellion—painted by him as a coup attempt—as a pretext for cracking down on independent social and political forces.”
Many observers both in and outside of Ecuador characterize the events of September 30, 2010 as an attempted coup d’état: after assaulting him with tear gas, rebelling police officers later held the president hostage in the hospital where he was being treated. The coup attempt was condemned as such by presidents and representatives of UNASUR, foreign dignitaries such as the president of Spain, and the OAS. Weyland and The Journal of Democracy may be taking the U.S. government’s line, one of the few countries that declined to recognize the events as a coup attempt, even though then-Secretary of State Clinton did issue a statement in expressing “our full support for President Rafael Correa.”
- “Bypassing or subjugating intermediate institutions such as firmly organized parties, the leader—often a charismatic figure—establishes face-to-face contact with large number of citizens. In earlier decades, mass rallies were crucial; now-a-days, television allows populists to reach their followers ‘in person.’ Chávez hosted a regular Sunday talk show.”
Calling for respect of “firmly organized parties” in Venezuela in the context of Chávez’s rise in politics obscures that one of the central political problems in Venezuela during the 90s was deep distrust in the main political parties and their “Punto Fijo” arrangement, which Robinson describes as a polyarchic system.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that President Obama has a weekly address on YouTube, and yet he is not derided as an illegitimate president because of his use of social media. Presidents and major politicians all over the world have Twitter and Facebook accounts that they use to communicate with constituents, and many even make appearances on talk shows. Is such “face-to-face contact” somehow nefarious?
- “In Bolivia, the Morales government shut the opposition out of decisive stages of the constitution drafting process.”
Weyland is again telling only half the story, which in this case is worse than none. The truth is that opposition legislators boycotted stages of the constitution drafting process because they disagreed with the direction in which things were going. Bolivia had elected its first indigenous president, with massive support from the country’s social movements, and he was facilitating a transformation of society to one in which a racial minority and tiny elite did not wield power over the majority of Bolivians. Evo Morales’s election drew comparisons to the symbolic end of apartheid in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela, and the new constitution was compared to the Freedom Charter.
It is not surprising that extreme elements in the opposition boycotted the process of installing a new constitution that cemented the rights of the indigenous majority, and it is misleading to describe these events as a “populist” power-grab.
This has been a brief review of some major claims that Weyland uses in arguing his point, namely that “democracy in the region is facing a sustained, coordinated authoritarian threat” from the progressive and left governments in Latin America. I have detailed not only mischaracterizations and significant omissions, but also argued for more independence in the practice of journalism. One of the responsibilities of a well-functioning press is to clearly indicate when articles are reused from sources funded mostly by the U.S. government.
 Ignatius, David. “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups.” The Washington Post. Sep 22, 1991: C1. Print.
- Laughing at Snowden’s Asylum Requests (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Washing U.S. Hands of the Dirty Wars: News Coverage Erases Washington’s Role in State Terror (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Recently the Latin American “dirty wars” of the 1960s through 1980s have resurfaced in mainstream media discussion. One reason is the trials in Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru, and Uruguay against some of the late twentieth century’s most vicious criminals, who are collectively responsible for the murders of hundreds of thousands of political dissidents and their suspected sympathizers. Some of the highest-profile defendants are Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-83), Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier (1971-86), and various officials from Argentina’s military dictatorship (1976-83). Dozens of former Argentine military officials have been convicted since 2008, while prosecutions against Ríos Montt and other Guatemalan officials and Haiti’s Duvalier have been attempted since 2011.
Despite dedicating substantial coverage to these events, U.S. news outlets have usually ignored the role of the U.S. government in supporting these murderous right-wing regimes through military aid and diplomatic support. This pattern also applies to press coverage of current U.S.-backed “dirty wars,” in Honduras and elsewhere.
The documentary record leaves no doubt about U.S. support for state terror in Latin America’s dirty wars.1 Although historians debate whether U.S. support was decisive in particular cases, all serious scholars agree that Washington played at least an important enabling role. Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti are good examples.
Argentina’s military regime murdered, tortured, and raped tens of thousands of people, mainly leftists, who criticized government policy. During the height of the repression, the U.S. government gave the junta over $35 million in military aid and sold it another $43 million in military supplies. It was well aware of the state terror it was supporting. Three months after the 1976 coup, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger privately told Argentine Foreign Minister César Guzzetti that, “we have followed events in Argentina closely” and “wish the new government well. We wish it will succeed . . . If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.”2
In Guatemala, around 200,000 people were slaughtered by the U.S.-backed military regimes that followed the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup against elected President Jacobo Arbenz. The height of state violence was the genocidal “scorched earth” campaign of the early 1980s, carried out—largely with U.S. weapons—by General Ríos Montt and his predecessor Romeo Lucas García. The campaign specifically targeted indigenous Mayans, who were deemed likely to sympathize with the country’s leftist guerrillas. In December 1982, despite his administration’s private recognition of the military’s “large-scale killing of Indian men, women, and children,” Reagan visited Guatemala and publicly declared that Ríos Montt was getting “a bum rap” and was “totally dedicated to democracy.” The next day the Guatemalan army launched its worst single massacre of the decade, killing nearly 200 men, women, and children in the village of Las Dos Erres. U.S. military aid continued thereafter, though often secretly.3 Ríos Montt himself later noted the importance of U.S. military and diplomatic support, telling a journalist that, “he should be tried only if Americans,” including Ronald Reagan, “were tried too.” (On May 10 Ríos Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity, but the conviction was annulled by the country’s Constitutional Court after intense lobbying by business and military elites. In April, former army officer and current Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina had tried to shut the trial down for fear that witnesses would implicate him in civilian massacres; one had already done so.)4
Turning to the Caribbean, Haiti’s Jean-Claude Duvalier is no less notorious for his brutality. He and his father, François, murdered and tortured tens of thousands of Haitians. Yet for three decades the Duvalier dynasty enjoyed strong U.S. support, including military training and the sale of millions of dollars in weapons and military aircraft. The dictatorship was “a dependable, good friend of the U.S.” according to a U.S. Embassy official in 1973.5 U.S. support was only withdrawn when a popular uprising was on the verge of ousting Jean-Claude in 1986.
Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti are just three examples of U.S. support for repression. Political scientist Lars Schoultz has quantified the relationship between U.S. aid and repression by Latin American governments for the years 1975-77, finding a clear pattern: “The correlations between the absolute level of U.S. assistance to Latin America and human rights violations by recipient governments” were “uniformly positive, indicating that aid has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens.”6 The logic is not a mystery: Washington has always preferred U.S.-friendly oligarchs and murderers when faced with the threats of substantive democracy, economic redistribution, and independent nationalism.
Yet the documentary record and scholarly consensus are not reflected in U.S. press coverage. As the table below shows, even the nation’s leading liberal media almost never acknowledge U.S. support for the dictatorships in Argentina, Guatemala, and Haiti. Only 13 times over the past five years did any allusion to that support appear in coverage by The New York Times, Washington Post, and National Public Radio (NPR), despite 222 total news and opinion pieces that mentioned former dictatorship officials in those countries. In other words, these media outlets only acknowledged U.S. support 6% of the time.
Recently the U.S. press has strongly condemned the Argentine, Guatemalan, and Haitian dictatorships, decrying, for instance, Duvalier’s “squalid legacy of disappearance, torture and murder” and interviewing Argentine torture victims and children stolen from their parents at birth by the military.8 The problem is that the perpetrators appear simply as brutal criminals in far-off lands, with no connection whatsoever to the United States. … Full article
Hector Timerman, Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared today that he will take to court a list with names of government officials allegedly spied upon by the US. The list was given to him on Friday, during the Mercosur summit.
“I can’t let the judiciary out of it,” said Timerman. ”I will briefly explain to the court what happened last Friday,” he said referring to the list he received with the names of people who have been spied on by the US government.
“I leave everything into justice’s hands,” added the minister.
Last Friday, during the Mercosur summit held in Montevideo, Uruguay, Timerman declared: “I received an hour ago, from a country present in this room, the names with the e-mail addresses and the passwords” of people that the US were spying on.
However, he refused to say who sent him the list. “They asked me to remain silent. This list has been given to me by a person that I trust.”
According to the minister, the list includes the names of “the governor of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, as well as other regional representatives, secretaries, officials’ wives, and other actors of Argentine civil life.” Vice-President Amado Boudou is also mentioned.
That same day, member countries of Mercosur issued a resolution condemning the espionage activities carried out by the US government, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The resolution states the intention of the member countries to work together for “cybernetic security”, something they describe as “an essential aspect to defend countries’ sovereignty”. They also demanded “an immediate stop to these actions” and “an explanations about [the US's] motivations.”
“Crime prevention, as well as transnational crimes repression, including terrorism, must be done according to international law,” they added.
- US Congress calls for sanctions against Argentina over growing Iran ties (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- S. American states to recall ambassadors from Europe over Bolivian plane incident (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Members of the US Congress have called for the imposition of sanctions against Argentina over its growing ties with Iran and Buenos Aires’ bid for joint investigations with Tehran into the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.
In a letters to US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Attorney General Eric Holder, the Congressmen cited growing economic and diplomatic relations between Iran and Argentina as grounds for slapping sanctions against Buenos Aires.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Iran and Argentina to probe the bombing at the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) was cited as another reason to take action against Buenos Aires.
The July 10 letter to Kerry said the US Congressmen found it “extremely troubling” that Argentina had agreed to a joint effort with Iran to investigate the AMIA bombing, which left 85 people dead.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and his Argentinean counterpart, Hector Timerman signed the MoU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 27.
Under intense political pressure from the US and Israel, Argentina had previously accused Iran of having carried out the bomb attack. The Islamic Republic has categorically denied any involvement in the terrorist bombing.
Earlier in July, Washington reacted fiercely when Argentina prevented AMIA case special prosecutor Alberto Nisman from taking part in a US Congress meeting to level allegations against Iran.
Nisman had collected a 500-page indictment in which he accused the Islamic republic of “infiltrating” regional countries to spread an “intelligence network”.
In a letter personally addressed to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, American lawmakers expressed disappointment over the veto of Nisman’s visit to the US Congress and questioned the “veracity” of the South American country’s intentions to probe the 1994 AMIA attack through the MoU with Iran.
An Argentinean court has ordered the probe of the country’s Jewish ex-interior minister for his alleged ties to the AMIA Jewish center bombing which left 85 people dead and hundreds wounded.
The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday that the Federal Appeals Court in the Argentinean capital, Buenos Aires, last week ordered the investigation of Carlos Vladimir Corach for allegedly giving an illegal payment of 400,000 dollars to Carlos Telleldin, an auto mechanic who was among those charged in the 1994 bombing.
According to the report, Telleldin, who is accused of providing the car bomb that blew up the Jewish center, has not been indicted.
The three Appeals Court justices urged Federal Judge Ariel Lijo to probe “the existence of concrete allegations involving Carlos Vladimir Corach, which have not been investigated until now,” the report added.
Corach was interior minister during the government of former Argentinean President Carlos Menem in the 1990s.
Russian shale oil reserves are estimated at 75 billion barrels, which puts the country on top of the global standings, followed by the US and China.
According to the report by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the estimated American shale gas resources equal 58 billion barrels, with third-place China having 32 billion barrels.
But it’s the Chinese, who hold the leadership in shale gas reserves, with 1,115 trillion cubic feet. 802 trillion cubic feet puts Argentina in second, with Algeria not far behind on 707 trillion cubic feet.
The US is fourth when it comes to shale gas (665 trillion cubic feet), while Russia is ninth with 285 trillion cubic feet.
The EIA’s report indicates that the worldwide resources of oil and gas from shale formations are greater than was previously thought.
The global shale oil resources are estimated at 345 billion barrels and shale gas – at 7,299 trillion cubic feet, which is a 10 per cent increase in comparison with the 2011 data.
According to EIA’s administrator, Adam Sieminski, the report shows “a significant potential for international shale oil and shale gas.”
The increase in estimates is explained by more countries joining the efforts to search for deposits, following the ‘Shale Revolution’ in the US.
“As shale oil and shale gas production has grown in the United States to become 30 percent of oil and 40 percent of natural gas total production, interest in the oil and natural gas resource potential of shale formations outside the United States has grown,” Adam Sieminski explained in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, British oil giants BP have Russia’s natural gas reserves estimate at 32.9 trillion cubic meters from 44.6 trillion in last year.
According to the company’s benchmark Statistical Review of World Energy, it’s Iran, who climbed to the top of the global standings, with the proven reserves of 33.6 trillion cubic meters.
BP said that this year they decided to adjust its estimates for the former Soviet Union states, including Russia, where data on reserves remains classified.
“Traditionally countries of the former Soviet Union had different criteria than used elsewhere. So we used a conversion factor to convert that from those countries where we don’t get direct data,” Christof Ruhl, BP’s chief economist, is cited as saying by Reuters. “In some countries, reserves are still a state secret, so we have to rely on these data.”
But Russia remains a much larger gas producer than Iran as the international sanctions prevent the Islamic Republic from exploiting its natural resources in full.
The estimate of gas reserves in the US where the energy industry has been transformed by shale oil and gas, due to lower prices and reduced drilling.
The American gas reserves ended 2012 at 8.5 trillion cubic meters, down 0.3 trillion from indications of 2011.
BP cut proven global gas reserves by nearly 21 trillion cubic meters from 208.4 trillion cubic last year to 187.3 trillion cubic meters as of end of 2012.
Economy ministers of member countries of Banco del Sur are meeting today in Caracas to define the operational details and implementation of this financial institution – a new regional funding entity independent of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Hernán Lorenzino, the minister of economy and public finance of Argentina, Luis Arce, Bolivian minister of economy and Carlos Marcio Cozendey, secretary of international affairs at the Brazilian ministry of finance, have already arrived to the Venezuelan capital.
Paraguay is the only country that has not confirmed the attendance of any representative at the meeting.
Ministers are expected to establish a ‘start date’, when each country will have to make its contribution to the newly founded institution. As a full member and founder, Argentina will provide US$400 million to Banco del Sur.
Days ago, Ricardo Patiño, Ecuadorian foreign affairs minister, had stated that the new bank “can be used to bail out a country, small or big, and meanwhile not have to submit to the dictates and conditions of the IMF.”
Banco del Sur is a result of an initiative by the late leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and was formalised in February 2007 when he and then Argentine president Néstor Kirchner signed a memorandum of creation, which also included Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay.
The South American financial institution aims to promote development, economic growth and improvement of infrastructure in all member countries.
The entity’s constitutive agreement establishes that Banco del Sur will have US$20bn of authorised resources and subscribed capital of US$10 billion, with US$7 billion in initial contributions by partner countries. A member contributes according to the capacity of its economy.
The headquarters of Banco del Sur which began preliminary operations on 3rd June is in Caracas, but also has offices in Buenos Aires and La Paz.
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Minister of the Interior and Transport, Florencio Randazzo, is set to announce changes in the railway sector – most importantly the nationalisation of passenger and cargo trains.
The Brazilian company América Latina Logística (A.L.L) will see its concession revoked and the historic Tren de la Costa will return to state hands. A.L.L had already received a warning from the Auditor General’s Office for anomalies in its provision of services.
From 1990 up to 2012, the company amassed a debt of over $237m to the government, 866% in excess of its contract compliance. Payments over the last six months have stalled, allowing the government to rescind its concession.
Tren de la Costa, built at the end of the 20th century, served as a vital link between the neighbourhood of Belgrano and the port of Tigre. Following various changes in ownership, it converted to electric power in 1931.
It covers 15.5km and runs alongside the scenic Río de la Plata serving four provincial municipalities. It has a total of 11 stations with a standard fare of just $16m or $10 for those with a DNI.
A.L.L meanwhile operates two of the most important freight railway networks in all of the country: A.L.L Central (line San Martín) and A.L.L Mesopotámica (line Urquiza). A.L.L Central runs through the centre of Argentina, beginning in the province of Cuyo and passes through San Luis, Córdoba, Rosario, Santa Fe, and finally Buenos Aires. A.L.L Mesopotámica in turn runs through the provinces of Misiones, Corrientes, and Entre Ríos, linking them to Paraguay, Uruguay, and its own network in Brazil.
A.L.L is the largest operator of rail logistics in Latin America. A.L.L Argentina is the biggest rail operator in the country, spanning 8000km. It is also the second largest in terms of cargo volume, transporting more than 5m tonnes each year.
Randazzo was recently quoted saying, “in terms of policy and management decisions, the State is more competitive than the private sector”.