Roger Cohen, what a disappointment. He is not Tom Friedman or David Brooks, and shouldn’t be insulting an entire nation based on a clump of tired old clichés and a lack of information. Argentina is “the child among nations that never grew up” he writes, and “not a whole lot has changed” since he was there 25 years ago. OK, let’s see what we can do to clean up this mess with a shovel and broom made of data.
For Cohen, Argentina since the government defaulted on its debt has been an economic failure. Tens of millions of Argentines might beg to differ.
For the vast majority of people in Argentina, as in most countries, being able to find a job is very important. According to the database of SEDLAC (which works in partnership with the World Bank), employment as a percentage of the labor force hit peak levels in 2012, and has remained close to there since. This is shown in Figure 1.
Argentina: Employment Rate, Percent of Total Population
Source: SEDLAC (2014).
We can also look at unemployment data from the IMF (Figure 2). Of course the current level of 7.3 percent is far below the levels reached during the depression of 1998-2002, which was caused by the failed neoliberal experiment that the Kirchners did away with – it peaked at 22.5 percent in 2002. But it is also far below the level of the boom years of that experiment (1991-1997) when it averaged more than 13 percent.
Argentina: Unemployment Rate
Source: IMF WEO (Oct 2013).
How about poverty? Here is data from SEDLAC (Figure 3), which does not use the official Argentine government’s inflation rate but rather a higher estimate for the years after 2007. It shows a 76.3 percent drop in the poverty rate from 2002-2013, and an 85.7 percent drop in extreme poverty.
Argentina: Poverty and Extreme Poverty
Source: SEDLAC (2014).
Most of the drop in poverty was from the very high economic growth (back to that in a minute) and consequent employment. But the government also implemented one of the biggest anti-poverty programs in Latin America, a conditional cash transfer program.
Finally, there is economic growth. In a terribly flawed article today, the Wall Street Journal reported on a soon-to-be published study showing that Argentina’s real (inflation-adjusted) GDP is 12 percent less than the official figures indicate. (As the article noted, the government, in co-operation with the IMF, implemented a new measure of inflation in January, which should resolve this data problem that has existed since 2007). If we assume that the 12 percent figure is correct, then using IMF data Argentina from 2002-2013 still has real GDP growth rate of 81 percent, or 5.6 percent annually. That is the third highest of 32 countries in the region (after Peru and Panama). And incidentally, very little of this growth was driven by a “commodities boom,” or any exports for that matter.
Despite current economic problems, the country that Cohen ridicules has done extremely well by the most important economic and social indicators, since it defaulted on most of its foreign debt and sent the IMF packing at the end of 2002. This is true by any international comparison or in comparison with its past. Many foreign corporations and the business press, as well as right-wing ideologues, are upset with Argentina’s policies for various reasons. They don’t really like any of the left governments that now govern most of South America, and Washington would like to get rid of all of them and return to the world of 20 years ago when the U.S. was in the drivers’ seat. But there’s really no reason for Roger Cohen to be jumping on this bandwagon.
Merida – Venezuelan researchers are studying ways to use bamboo to provide cheap, environmentally friendly housing.
With funding from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, students and educators at Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar University (USB) are undertaking research into improving the durability and lifespan of bamboo, along with conducting studies into possible uses of the material in housing construction.
Initial tests have already been carried out on experimental, reinforced bamboo developed at the university, according to a press release from the government’s National Foundation for Science and Technology (Fonacit). The foundation is supporting the study.
“The preliminary results were positive,” director of the USB’s Centre for Surface Engineering Professor Joaquín Lira stated.
Lira explained that the experimental bamboo has been strengthened with polymers mixed with ceramic powders. According to the professor, the reinforcing mixture succeeded in “plugging holes made by pests” and improved the uniformity of the material.
In a second phase of the study, researchers hope to construct a prototype apartment block with the reinforced bamboo. According to Lira, the modified bamboo is intended for future use as a “structural element for green, affordable housing”.
A mission to provide affordable housing to the country’s poor was launched by former president Hugo Chavez, has been continued under his successor, President Nicolas Maduro. By the end of last year, over 500,000 homes had been constructed since mid 2011 under the housing mission, according to the government. The Maduro administration has committed to constructing three million new homes by 2019. Although current construction figures are behind schedule, the government has pledged to speed up building.
Lira argued that bamboo is a logical choice for construction material in South America.
“Venezuela , Brazil and Colombia are countries with high production potential for… bamboo…adapted for construction,” Lira stated.
“In these countries, it’s estimated that there are 11 million hectares of bamboo,” the professor said.
The USB is sourcing its bamboo from 200 growers in Aragua state.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It can reportedly grow as much as 250cm in 24 hours, depending on climate and soil conditions. Lira also argued that bamboo is cheaper than other construction materials, strong and environmentally friendly.
However, the professor indicated that more research should be undertaken, particularly to reduce bamboo’s susceptibility to insects.
“Technically, we know little about bamboo [construction],” Lira stated, though the plant has been used in buildings for centuries.
“There are three story homes, bridges and churches built with this plant,” Lira said.
The research is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2015.
Uruguay’s president has accused the head of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of lying and double standards, after the official claimed the country did not consult the anti-drug body before legalizing marijuana.
Earlier this week, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize both the sale and production of marijuana.
INCB chief Raymond Yans has slammed the “surprising” move, accusing the South American state of legalizing the drug without first discussing it with the UN organization.
Uruguay’s president, Jose Mujica, rejected the criticism on Friday, saying that he’s ready to discuss the law with anyone.
“Tell that old man to stop lying,” Mujica said in an interview with Uruguay’s Canal 4.
“Let him come to Uruguay and meet me whenever he wishes… Anybody can meet and talk to me, and whoever says he couldn’t meet with me tells lies, blatant lies.”
“Because he sits in a comfortable international platform, he believes he can say whatever nonsense,” he added.
Yans has accused Uruguay of “pirate attitudes” for knowingly violating the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which the South American country is part of.
But Mujica reminded that Yans did not say a word about the US states of Colorado and Washington, which also legalized marijuana.
“Does he have different rules: one for Uruguay and other for the world’s strong countries?” he asked.
First lady Lucia Topolansky, a member of the Uruguayan Senate, has fully backed her husband on the issue.
“Who is this fellow who likes to call names to countries?” she said of Yans. “I think he’s crossed the line, but anyhow I believe that he has had problems with other countries, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and they will be meeting him sometime in March.”
“But to be honest, marijuana is not the heart of life or earthly issues,” Topolansky added.
The law, which allows for a government-controlled marijuana market, was passed by the Uruguayan Senate on Monday.
According to the legislation, those wishing to smoke cannabis recreationally need to register with the authorities and limit their consumption to 40 grams per month.
President Mujica and his supporters argue that regulating marijuana consumption and production will remove profits from criminals and allow less money to be spent on soldiers and police, who are ultimately unable to prevent Uruguayan citizens from using the drug.
Canada, as well as the US, infiltrated and spied on the Brazilian Energy Ministry, a new leak by Edward Snowden has revealed. The leaked documents show how the data gleaned through espionage was shared with international spy network the ‘Five Eyes.’
Newly-released documents handed over to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald by former CIA employee Edward Snowden describe in detail how Canadian intelligence infiltrated Brazil’s Energy and Mines Ministry.
“I was overwhelmed by the power of the tools used. The Ministry of Energy and Mines was totally dissected,” security expert Paulo Pagliusi told Brazilian program Fantastico, which first reported on the leak.
The program showed documents from a meeting of the ‘Five Eyes’ spy network, comprising the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, in June of last year. In a presentation the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSRC) – the Canadian version of the NSA – outlined how they used a program called Olympia to break through the Brazilian ministry’s encryption.
The information gleaned from the ministry was then shared with all of the members of the ‘Five Eyes.’
“They [Five Eyes] are sharing all the information, handing over documents to let other countries know exactly what they are doing,” said Glen Greenwald.
As a result of the infiltration of the ministry over an unspecified period, the CSCE developed a detailed map of the institution’s communications. As well as monitoring email and electronic communications, the CSCE also eavesdropped on telephone conversations. Able to identify mobile numbers, SIM card registrations and the make of a phone, Olympia even snooped on former Brazilian ambassador to Canada Paulo Cordeiro.
Canada has so far refused to comment on the reports of its spy program. Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao told Fantastico that the reports were “serious” and should be condemned.
Canada is one of the world’s leading energy producers and has significant economic interests in Brazil.
“Canada has interests in Brazil, especially in the mining sector. Does this spying serve the commercial interests of select groups? I cannot say,” observed Lobao.
‘No economic espionage’
Previously, Brazilian newspaper Globo News reported that the NSA was monitoring Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras. Washington reacted to the allegations, stating that the US “does not engage in economic espionage.” The Obama administration has said on a number of occasions that US covert surveillance is in the interests of protecting US national security.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the reports of the NSA’s surveillance of Brazil and demanded the US account for its actions.
As a consequence, the Brazilian head of state postponed an official visit to Washington in October. Rousseff has also taken measures to tighten Brazilian internet security.
“I have sent an internet draft bill to Congress, an initiative that will protect the privacy of Brazilians,” Rousseff wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The government is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
Back in September, Rousseff slammed the US for “economic espionage,” dismissing US claims the NSA spying is a preventative measure to ensure national security. Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Rousseff stated that state-run Petrobras is “no threat to the security of any country. Rather, it represents one of the greatest assets of the world’s oil and the heritage of the Brazilian people.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff lambasted US spying on her country at Tuesday’s UN summit, calling it a “breach of international law.” She further warned that the NSA surveillance, revealed since June, threatened freedom of speech and democracy.
“Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and as such it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff said.
“Without the right to privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion,” Rousseff told the gathering of world leaders. “And therefore, there is no actual democracy,” she added, criticizing the fact that Brazil had been targeted by the US.
“A country’s sovereignty can never affirm itself to the detriment of another country’s sovereignty,” she added.
Rousseff went on to propose a multilateral, international governance framework to monitor US surveillance activity. “We must establish multilateral mechanisms for the world wide web,” she said.
Rousseff said that the US’s arguments for spying on Brazil and other UN member states were “untenable”, adding that “Brazil knows how to protect itself” and that the country has been “living in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years.”
Brazil’s specific targeting in US surveillance practices prompted Rousseff’s government to announce that it intends to adopt both legislation and technology aimed at protecting itself and its businesses from the illegal interception of communications.
A week ago, Rousseff canceled an impending state visit to Washington, scheduled to take place in October, because of indignation over spying revelations. Rousseff has stated she wants an apology from Obama and the United States.
The revelations that the US National Security Agency has been intercepting Rouseff’s own phone calls and e-mails, in addition to those of her aides and officials at state-controlled oil and gas firm Petrobras, have prompted an outcry in Brazil.
Rousseff’s predecessor as Brazilian President, Lula da Silva, said earlier this month that Obama should “personally apologize to the world.” Lula accused the US of “thinking that it can control global communications and ignore the sovereignty of other countries” in an interview with India’s English-language daily The Hindu, published Sept. 10.
Latin America voices widespread indignation at US activities
US relations with all of Latin America have recently soured. In addition to Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela have all voiced anger with the US over the NSA’s surveillance of their countries this year. Bolivia has been especially bitter.
“I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity,” President Morales told reporters Friday in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the US president as a “criminal” who had violated international law.
In early July, a plane carrying Morales from Moscow to the Bolivian capital, La Paz, was grounded for 13 hours in Austria after it was banned from European airspace because of US suspicions it was carrying fugitive Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has been responsible for the majority of leaks regarding NSA spying practices since June.
Venezuela wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the end of last week, requesting that he take action in response to the apparent denial of US visas to some members of the Venezuelan delegation who were scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.
President Nicolas Maduro said that the denial seemed intended to “create logistical obstacles to impede” the visit, and further requested that the UN “demand that the government of the US abide by its international obligations” as host of the 68th UN General Assembly.
Tension between Venezuela and the US rose Thursday when Venezuela’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, told media outlets that the US had denied a plane carrying Maduro entrance into its airspace. The aircraft was en route to China. Washington later granted the approval, stating that Venezuela’s request had not been properly submitted. Jaua denounced the move as “an act of aggression.”
Despite earlier US assurances that its Department of Defense does not “engage in economic espionage in any domain,” a new report suggests that the intelligence agency NSA spied on Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras.
Brazil’s biggest television network Globo TV reported that the information about the NSA spying on Petroleo Brasileiro SA came from Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who first published secrets leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Globo TV aired slides from an NSA presentation from 2012 that revealed the agency’s ability to gain access to private networks of companies such as Petrobras and Google Inc.
One slide specified an ‘economic’ motive for spying, along with diplomatic and political reasons.
This seems to contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to the Washington Post on August 30, which said that the US Department of Defense “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”
An official from the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information not to steal secrets, but to watch for financial instability.
Petrobras is known to have discovered some of the world’s biggest offshore oil reserves in recent years.
Some of the new reserves are estimated to be around as 100 billion barrels of oil, according to Rio de Janeiro State University.
None of the leaked slides went into the reasons behind the NSA spying on the Brazilian firm.
The US spy agency then reportedly shared the gathered information with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The new report about US spying on Brazil could intensify the already existing tensions between Brazil and US.
The relationship between the two countries became tense as Globo reported about allegations that NSA has intercepted private communications of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto.
Brazil responded by canceling preparations for the presidential visit to the United States and beginning a probe into telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the NSA. Also, Brazil has asked for a formal apology.
During the G20 summit US tried to address the issue by US President Barack Obama pledging to work with Brazil and Mexico to address their concerns over US spying revealed in recent NSA leaks.
Brazil will probe telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the NSA after it was found the US had been spying on President Rousseff. Brazil’s government has accused the US of lying about the NSA’s activities in the country.
In response to the revelations, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of ministers. Following the meeting the government called on the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) to carry out checks on telecom companies based in Brazil to see if they collaborated with the NSA.
The Brazilian government denounced the NSA’s activities as “impermissible and unacceptable” and a violation of Brazilian sovereignty.
“[The US has] not given any reasonable explanations. In fact, all the explanations that have been given so far are false,” said Minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo.
The American ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, was summoned by the government to account for the reports of NSA snooping on Tuesday. He claimed the NSA does not monitor communications on Brazilian territory or collaborate with telecommunications companies.
Citing data leaked by Edward Snowden, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed on Sunday that the NSA had been monitoring both the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.
“It is clear in several ways that [Rousseff’s] communications were intercepted, including the use of DNI Presenter, which is a program used by NSA to open and read emails and online chats,” Greenwald told AP in an email.
Brazilian-US relations on rocks
In the wake of the new scandal Brazilian media is speculating whether the spy revelations will lead to a knee-jerk reaction from the Brazilian government and the cancelation of Dilma’s October visit to the States.
Citing a presidential spokesperson, Globo reporter Gerson Camarotti wrote that if a “satisfactory explanation” is not given by the Americans then Dilma “will not rule out canceling the visit.”
“There has to be a convincing explanation. If this doesn’t happen, the situation will become extremely delicate,” said the spokesperson.
US relations with Brazil have worsened considerably as a result of Edward Snowden’s leaks regarding the NSA’s massive spy network. Back in August, UK authorities detained Brazilian citizen David Miranda in a London airport over suspicions he was carrying leaked NSA data on behalf of his partner Glen Greenwald. UK law enforcement held Miranda for nine hours under the terrorist act and confiscated electronic equipment.
Brazil called Miranda’s detention without charges unjustifiable and called on the UK authorities to account for the move. Meanwhile Brazilian lawmakers have called for police protection for Greenwald and his partner.
- BRICS to discuss US spying on Rousseff: Brazil (thebricspost.com)
- Brazilian Senate to probe NSA spying reports (thebricspost.com)
- Brazilian lawmakers call for police protection of Glenn Greenwald and his partner (rt.com)
Lawmakers in Brazil have asked that American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda receive protection from federal police, due to the importance of their testimony regarding an ongoing investigation of US spying practices.
On Tuesday, the Brazilian Senate began an official investigation into allegations that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been surveilling the country and even intercepted personal emails sent by President Dilma Rousseff.
Greenwald first broke the news of allegations that the NSA had been tapping Brazil’s communications several weeks ago, but a Sunday report aired on Globo TV made more pointed accusations that the Brazilian head of state had been targeted.
The American journalist’s reports of alleged NSA spying operations on South America – based on leaks provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – have been making headlines in Brazil, based in large part on Greenwald’s column with O Globo newspaper.
Sunday’s revelations seemed to be a direct result of the extended detention of Miranda at London’s Heathrow Airport in mid-August. Miranda, a Brazilian national who lives in Rio de Janeiro with Greenwald, was held by officers for nine hours. His electronic equipment was confiscated by authorities. Believing the incident was an attempt at intimidation, Greenwald then indicated that his reporting on Snowden’s leaks would only pick up pace.
In a separate incident in July, Greenwald told media that he believed his home had been broken into and a laptop stolen after he contacted Miranda telling him to expect emailed NSA documents.
The fresh allegations of NSA spying have brought into question president Rousseff’s scheduled state visit to the US in October. Brazil has officially requested an explanation on the new reports by the end of the week, saying that Rousseff’s decision on whether or not to visit Washington will be based on that response.
According to AP, Government security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez confirmed on Tuesday that Brazil’s foreign ministry had contacted the US and requested an “in-depth investigation into the matter.”
During its first meeting on the NSA scandal, Brazil’s Parliamentary Inquiry Commission approved an application for police protection of Greenwald and Miranda.
A member of the committee, Senator Pedro Taques, decried allegations of spying on the country’s leadership.
“There’s been an attempt, not only against our national laws that involve the immunity and safety of our head of state, but other people as well,” he told reporters.
The new report provided by Greenwald also alleges that the NSA targeted Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, monitoring his communications prior to the country’s July 2012 election.
- Report: NSA targeted Brazil, Mexico leaders (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Brazil to probe telecom companies implicated in NSA spying (rt.com)
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.
Venezuela is at a critical moment in its Bolivarian revolution, dealing with serious economic issues due to its transitional economy that is under siege by local oligarchs. At the same time, President Nicolás Maduro’s decision to welcome Edward Snowden, if he opts for political asylum in Venezuela, means that the Obama administration is escalating its hostility towards his government.
Venezuela faces a situation analogous to that of the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende from 1970 to 1973 when, as is well documented, the CIA and the local business class conspired to destabilize the economy, overthrow the democratically elected socialist government, and impose the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
It is in this context that we find it ill timed at best that Clif Ross has assailed the Venezuelan government with one-sided and flimsy arguments (e.g., criticizing Chávez for choosing to divert electrical power from basic industry to the populace when natural droughts curtailed hydroelectric production) in recent articles at Dissident Voice and CounterPunch Weekend Edition.
A former Chávista, Ross now takes what he describes as an “agnostic” view of the Bolivarian movement. His agnosticism extends to the US-backed opposition, which Ross argued in his talk in Berkeley could be even better for Venezuela if it were to come to power.
As solidarity activists, the Task Force on the Americas is not afflicted with agnostic angst; we support the social justice movements against imperialist intervention. Our responsibility is to allow the Venezuelans to resolve the contradictions within their movement without the interference of the US government.
A class analysis is needed of what is happening in Venezuela. The many problems with the Bolivarian revolution are inherent in trying to create socialism on the foundations of capitalism. Within Chávismo there is an acute awareness of problems, and President Maduro is working on them. We support the overall Bolivarian struggle against outside interference, because the alternative of the opposition in power would mean no opportunity for a people’s agenda.
Ross is concerned about the contagion of state power. None of the 21st century socialist governments in Latin America pass his muster. All are corrupt, authoritarian, and going in the wrong direction in his view.
But it was through state power that the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela distributed land to 300,000 families, halved the poverty rate, reduced extreme poverty by two-thirds, went from being among one of the most economically unequal nations in the Latin America to being the among the most equal, reduced child malnutrition by 40%, increased social expenditures by 60%, built 700,000 homes, and returned 1 million hectares to Indigenous communities.
This same government has promoted community councils and other instruments of participatory democracy. Not surprisingly, according to the annual World Happiness poll, Venezuela is the second happiest country in the world.
A mere decade and a half ago, most analysts would have ranked Venezuela as least likely to stand up on its own two feet to challenge the Empire, to be recognized as sovereign and equal. It was arguably the most sycophantically Americanized nation in South America. In a mere 14 years of the Bolivarian revolution, there has been a blossoming of home grown culture. A sense of national identity and pride has become universal, even among the Miami jet-setting opposition elements.
Today, 32-year old musical wunderkind and avowed Chavista Gustavo Dudamel is not only the music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar in Caracas but of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Los Angeles. Culture is still being imported, but the shipping lanes are going both ways now.
The Bolivarian revolution is considered a major threat by the US empire. The US has a stated policy of regime change for Venezuela, spending millions of dollars on “democracy promotion” to demonize and destabilize the Bolivarian movement. With the US as the sole super power having an uncontested military superiority, the Bolivarian revolution is all the more of a threat because it is a “threat of a good example.”
In 2008, when the US financial crisis precipitated a world recession, the capitalist solution was to impose austerity measures on working people with increased unemployment and economic insecurity. In contrast, the Venezuelan government reduced the gap between rich and poor by elevating the poor.
As James Petras has pointed out, US policy toward Venezuela has taken many tactical turns. But the enduring objective has been the same: oust the Chavistas, reverse the nationalization of big businesses, abolish the mass community and worker based councils, and revert the country into a client-state. These are the salient issues the solidarity movement needs to address.
Roger D. Harris is President of the Task Force on the Americas, a 29-year-old human rights organization based in Marin County, which works in solidarity with the social justice movements in Latin America and in opposition to US interference with their self-determination. Visit Roger’s website.
- Venezuela ends normalization of US relations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela arrests Colombian paramilitaries plotting instability (alethonews.wordpress.com)
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.
Member states attending the summit expressed their grievances with “actions by the governments of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal” over the July 2 incident, when the aircraft carrying President Evo Morales back to Bolivia after attending an energy summit in Moscow was denied entry into the airspace of a number of EU member states.
The small aircraft, which required a stop-over before completing its flight, was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria after a circuitous flight path.
It was later revealed that the European countries’ actions were prompted by accusations made by the US ambassador to Austria, William Eacho, who alleged that American whistleblower Edward Snowden had been taken on board to help him gain political asylum in Latin America.
“The gravity of the incident – indicative of a neocolonial mindset – constitutes an unfriendly and hostile act, which violates human rights and impedes freedom of travel, as well as the treatment and immunity appropriate to a head of state,” the Mercosur nations affirmed in the joint statement.
The incident was further described as a “discriminatory and arbitrary” decision by European countries, as well as a “blatant violation of international law.”
Ecuador renounced trade benefits which the US threatened to revoke over the Latin American country’s consideration of harboring NSA leaker Edward Snowden. It offered $23 million a year to fund human rights education for Americans instead.
The government of leftist President Rafael Correa came up with an angry response on Thursday after an influential US senator said he would use his leverage over trade issues to cut preferential treatment of Ecuadoran goods at the US market, should Ecuador grant political asylum to Snowden.
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.
He added that Ecuador is willing to allocate $23 million annually, an equivalent of the sum that it gained from the benefits, to fund human rights training in the US. It will “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said.
US Senator Robert Menendez, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, said this week that Ecuador risks losing the benefits it enjoys under two trade programs because of its stance on the NSA whistleblower.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior,” he said.
The US is Ecuador’s prime trade partner, with over 40 percent of exports going to the US market.
Both programs were due to expire by the end of next month and were subject to congressional review. Before the Snowden debacle arose, the US legislature was expected to scrap one of them while renewing another one.
Snowden has applied for political asylum, hoping to find protection from American prosecutors, who charged him with espionage over his leaking of classified documents on US surveillance programs.
He is currently thought to be staying in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. He became stranded in the Russian capital after arriving from Hong Kong, because the US annulled his travel passport as part of its effort to get him to American soil for trial.