US sanctions against Russia can be considered as economic terrorism, said acting Bolivian President Evo Morales in an interview to RT. He also revealed his secret job aspiration.
“This [US sanctions against Russia] is genuine economic terrorism. The country that thinks it can dominate the world is making a mistake,” says Morales.
“I think that US President Barack Obama doesn’t’ know what is going on in other countries and continents.”
According to Morales, a single country “cannot rule in this multipolar world,” as all the issues should be “settled in cooperation among the states; that’s what the UN is for.”
“Thus I condemn and reject these kind of actions [US sanctions against Russia],” said the president, adding that Bolivia shares “the struggle of the Russian people.”
“I express my solidarity with Russian people and their President [Vladimir Putin],” he added.
Morales recently coasted to victory in the country’s presidential elections. He won the third term, securing 60.5 percent of the vote according to a count released by local TV channel ATB.
“This win is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists,” Morales announced from the balcony of his palace to thousands of supporters. He dedicated his victory to Cuba’s ex-President Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.
Morales took office in 2006, and after the latest victory will remain the state leader until January 2020.
Under Morales’ term the number of Bolivians living in extreme poverty reduced and he delivered economic growth of more than 5 percent a year.
In an interview with RT, he noted that one of the main political purposes for Bolivia will be fighting poverty.
“I hope that nobody will have the childhood I had: without electricity, telecommunications, drinking water,” said Morales, adding that he often drank water from a pond when he was a child.
According to the Bolivian president, the country has achieved in just nine years what it hitherto couldn’t achieve in 180.
“I want to speak of my experience. How important it was to start from the bottom: poverty. That’s why I always say that my nation is my family. Homeland is my soul. Bolivia is my life.” … Full article
The Economist’s Bello column this week has a column entitled “Memory is not history“, which argues that “there are dangers [in South America’s] intellectual fashion for “historical memory”.” It goes on to accuse “the left” of “rewriting history” – in fact, of imposing “memory” over an accurate “history”.
I would argue that the piece contains several important distortions, aside from trying to lump together a region from Colombia down to the Southern Cone.
The historical truth silenced by “memory” is that the cold war in Latin America was fought by two equally authoritarian sides.
But it was not. To take the example of Argentina, yes, there were Montoneros and there were incidences of left-wing violence before the 1976 coup. But to suggest that the small leftist group, which was largely destroyed before the military took power, was in any way equivalent to the forces of the State is very far off the mark.
The Economist points out that some human rights groups in Argentina tend to use the figure of 30,000 disappeared and it contrasts this with the nearly 9,000 victims recorded by the CONADEP commission. It is inaccurate and unfair to use the CONADEP list to undermine estimates of the disappeared, and I explained why in detail years ago. See also here for more on the numbers.
None of this mitigates the inexcusable barbarity of Pinochet or of the Argentine junta.
The problem is that it does. You can’t equate State terrorists with their victims, suggest that calculations of the disappeared are deliberately inflated, and then claim that you’re not weakening the accounts of the dictatorships’ crimes.
Memorials are a shorthand, yes. You can’t include the whole complexities of a country’s experiences on a plaque. Memory, in its wider sense, tends to include the testimonies of victims and relatives and it encompasses a whole range of commemorative acts, both formal and informal. Pulling out the memory/history dichotomy and reiterating the dos demonios theory (“each side was as bad as the other”) is a means of obscuring human rights abuses and seeking to paper over the crimes of the past.
Argentina’s Senate has passed a law that will let the country continue paying off its default debt by transferring international bond payments from New York to local banks, which would let other investors buy Argentine debt.
The scheme, to get around a US judge’s order to immediately pay back $1.6 billion to “vulture” hedge funds in Manhattan, is the initiative of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The bill passed by a vote 39 to 27.
The initiative proposes to begin challenging payments through third parties, and allowing them to trade their bonds for new debt issued under Argentine law. Argentina’s state Banco de la Nacion could become the trustee for payments, replacing the Bank of New York Mellon. Another proposal is to make Paris a main destination for debt payments.
The US district court that ruled on Argentina’s debt maintains this is illegal.
Next week the law will be discussed in Argentina’s lower house Chamber of Deputies.
It is a brazen move against the ‘vulture’ funds that sent the country into default in July after demanding the immediate payment of $1.6 billion ($1.3 billion plus interest) in restructured debt, instead of the planned $539 million to bondholders. The ruling banned Argentina from making interest payment on restructured debt before settling with the New York hedge funds. The hedge funds had rejected Argentina’s requests to restructure the debt in 2005 and 2010.
“Sometimes there are court decisions that cannot be followed,” Miguel Angel Pichetto, head of the government’s Victory Front coalition in the Senate, said on Thursday.
Argentina has said it will take the US to the International Court of Justice for judicial malpractice.
“To pay the vulture funds would be very dangerous,” Pichetto said.
Washington has refused to allow the UN International Court of Justice (IJC) to hear Argentina’s claims that US court decisions on the country’s debt have violated Argentina’s sovereignty.
“We do not view the ICJ as an appropriate venue for addressing Argentina’s debt issues, and we continue to urge Argentina to engage with its creditors to resolve remaining issues with bondholders,” the US State Department told Reuters in an email.
The State Department sent an email with the same content to one of Argentina’s leading newspapers, the Clarin.
Argentina complained against Washington’s decisions on its debt to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday.
But according to existing norms, Buenos Aires needs Washington to voluntarily accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction for the proceedings to begin.
The US withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction back in 1986 after the UN court ruled that America’s covert war against Nicaragua was in violation of international law.
Since then, Washington accepts International Court of Justice jurisdiction only on a case-by-case basis.
On Friday, US District Judge Thomas Griesa, who oversees Argentina’s legal battle with hedge funds, threatened that a contempt of court order may be implemented.
Griesa said it will be put forward if Argentina continues to “falsely” insist that it has made a required debt payment on restructured sovereign bonds.
The warning caused confusion, as the judge didn’t specify who will face the punishment – Argentina or its lawyers.
It will be quite difficult to sanction the Argentinean state, as US federal law largely protects the assets of foreign governments held in the US, said Michael Ramsey, a professor of international law at the University of San Diego.
“You can’t put Argentina in jail, so I’m not sure what he’d have in mind besides monetary sanctions,” Ramsey said.
Later on Friday, Argentina’s economy ministry issued another statement, accusing the US judge of “clear partiality in favor of the vulture funds.”
“Judge Griesa continues contradicting himself and the facts by saying that Argentina did not pay,” the statement said.
Previously, Argentina announced the restructuring of 93 percent of its 2001 debt, but creditors holding the other seven percent of the bonds demanded full payment and initiated a legal battle.
A New York court ruled that Argentina had to pay $1.33 billion to the hedge funds, blocking the transfer of $590 million that Buenos Aires forwarded in order to cover its restructured debt.
The judge said Argentina had to start talks with the lenders that didn’t approve the debt restructuring and negotiate to postpone the payment with those who did agree.
With lenders unable to receive payment, international regulators and rating agencies announced Argentina’s ‘selective’ default.
Ecuador has said it will not deal with the coup-appointed government in Kiev and has called for fair elections. President Rafael Correa declared he would only negotiate with a “legitimate government” that represents the will of the Ukrainian people.
In his weekly address to the Ecuadorian people, Correa explained why Ecuador had abstained from the UN General Assembly vote Thursday that passed a resolution condemning Crimea’s union with Russia.
“We will not fall for a farce, we will only deal with a legitimate government,” said Correa, adding that Ecuador does not recognize the current government that is the product of a coup d’état. To win the support of Ecuador, Ukraine should hold democratic elections and establish a legitimate government chosen by the Ukrainian people, Correa said.
Moscow has also decried the coup-appointed government that came to power in Kiev at the end of February following weeks of bloody protests in the Ukrainian capital’s Independence Square.
“The current government is the product of devious machinations, to put to it mildly, clearly supported by hypocritical rhetoric from the West,” Correa said.
On Crimea’s decision to become a part of Russia and break from Ukraine, he said the region was “historically Russian,” but the Crimean referendum “does not change the constitution.”
With this in mind, Correa explained that Ecuador could not accept the stance of the Ukrainian government – which he described as an extension of the United States – or Moscow’s position until Crimea’s status had been clarified.
Ecuador, along with 58 other nations, abstained from a UN General Assembly vote Thursday that condemned Crimea’s referendum to join Russia as “illegal.” The resolution was supported by 100 nations, while 11 opposed it.
Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe all voted against the resolution.
Unlike UN Security Council resolutions, a General Assembly resolution is not legally binding.
Russia condemned the UN assembly vote as “confrontational” and undermining the referendum and the right to self-determination of the Crimean people. The initiative for Crimea to reunite with Russia came from the Crimean people themselves, not from Moscow, said Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin.
Russia also previously vetoed a Security Council resolution that said the Crimean referendum to join Russia would have “no validity” in an emergency session held the day before Crimea headed to the polls.
On March 16, an overwhelming majority of Crimean residents voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation, in the wake of bloody protests in Kiev that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.
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.