In what the New York Times declared as a “dark day for the rule of law” on December 11, 2012, HSBC, the world’s second largest bank, failed to be indicted for extensive criminal activities in laundering money to and from regimes under sanctions, Mexican drug cartels, and terrorist organizations (including al-Qaeda). While admitting culpability, and with guilt assured, state and federal authorities in the United States decided not to indict the bank “over concerns that criminal charges could jeopardize one of the world’s largest banks and ultimately destabilize the global financial system.” Instead, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.92 billion settlement.
The fear was that an indictment would be a “death sentence” for HSBC. The U.S. Justice Department, which was prosecuting the case, was told by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve that taking such an “aggressive stance” against HSBC could have negative effects upon the economy. Instead, the bank was to forfeit $1.2 billion and pay $700 million in fines on top of that for violating the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act. In a statement, HSBC’s CEO stated, “We accept responsibility for our past mistakes… We are committed to protecting the integrity of the global financial system. To this end, we will continue to work closely with governments and regulators around the world.” With more than $7 billion in Mexican drug cartel money laundered through HSBC alone, the fine amounts to a slap on the wrist, no more than a cost-benefit analysis of doing business: if the ‘cost’ of laundering billions in drug money is less than the ‘benefit,’ the policy will continue.
As part of the settlement, not one banker at HSBC was to be charged in the case. The New York Times acknowledged that, “the government has bought into the notion that too big to fail is too big to jail.” HSBC joins a list of some of the world’s other largest banks in paying fines for criminal activities, including Credit Suisse, Lloyds, ABN Amro and ING, among others. The U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer referred to the settlement as an example of HSBC “being held accountable for stunning failures of oversight.” Lanny Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division, which was responsible for prosecuting the case against HSBC, was previously a partner at a law firm (along with the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder) where they represented a number of major banks and other conglomerates in cases dealing with foreclosure fraud. While Breuer and Holder were partners at Covington & Burling, the firm represented notable clients such as Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, among others. It seems that at the Justice Department, they continue to have the same job: protecting the major banks from being persecuted for criminal behaviour.
With a great deal of focus on the $1.9 billion in fines being paid out by HSBC, little mention was made of the fact that HSBC had roughly $2.5 trillion in assets, and earned $22 billion in profits in 2011. But not to worry, HSBC’s executive said that they “accept responsibility for our past mistakes,” and added: “We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again.” So not only did the executives of the world’s second largest bank apologize for laundering billions in drug money (along with other crimes), but they apologized… again. Thus, they pay a comparably small fine and face no criminal charges. I wonder if a crack dealer from a ghetto in the United States could avoid criminal prosecution if he were to apologize not once, but twice. Actually, we don’t have to wonder. In May of 2012, as HSBC executives were testifying before the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C., admitting their role in drug money laundering, a poor black man was convicted of peddling 5.5 grams of crack cocaine just across the river from the U.S. Capitol building, and he was given 10 years in prison.
Back in August the bank stated that they had put aside $700 million to pay fines for illegal activities, which conveniently was the exact amount they were fined by the U.S. Justice Department (not including the forfeiture of profits). Lanny Breuer declared the settlement to be “a very just, very real and very powerful result.” Indeed, one could agree that the results are “powerful” and “very real,” in that they provide a legal state-sanctioned decision that big banks will not be prosecuted for their vast criminal activities, precisely because they are big banks. The “very real” result of this is that we can guarantee that such criminal behaviour will continue, since the banks will continue to be protected by the state. With news of the settlement, HSBC’s market share price rose by 2.8%, a clear sign that “financial markets” also reward criminal behaviour and the “pervasively polluted” culture at HSBC (in the words of the U.S. Senate report).
Jack Blum, a Washington attorney and former special counsel for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who specializes in money laundering and financial crimes stated that, “If these people aren’t prosecuted, who will be?” He further asked: “What do you have to do to be prosecuted? They have crossed every bright line in bank compliance. When is there an offense that’s bad enough for a big bank to be prosecuted?” But the Justice Department’s Lanny Breuer explained that his department had to consider “the collateral consequences” of prosecutions: “If you prosecute one of the largest banks in the world, do you risk that people will lose their jobs, other financial institutions and other parties will leave the bank, and there will be some kind of event in the world economy?”
In other words, the U.S. Justice Department decided that big banks are above the law, because if they weren’t, there would be severe consequences for the financial system. And this is not just good news for HSBC, the “favourite” bank of Mexican drug cartels (according to Bloomberg), but it’s good news for all banks. After all, HSBC is not the only bank engaged in laundering drug money and other illegal activities. Back in 2010, Wachovia (now part of Wells Fargo) paid roughly $160 million in fines for laundering some $378.4 billion in drug money. Drug money has also been found to be laundered through other major financial institutions, including Bank of America, Banco Santander, Citigroup, and the banking branch of American Express. Nearly all of the world’s largest banks have been or are currently being investigated for other crimes, including rigging interest rates (in what’s known as the Libor scandal), and other forms of fraud. Among the banks being investigated for criminal activity by U.S. prosecutors are Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, Bank of America, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Credit Suisse, Lloyds, Rabobank, Royal Bank of Canada, and Société Générale, among others. Regulators and investigators of the Libor scandal – “the biggest financial scandal ever” – report that the world’s largest banks engage in “organized fraud” and function like a “cartel” or “mafia.”
The pervasive criminality of this “international cartel” is so consistent that one commentator with the Guardian has referred to global banks as “the financial services wing of the drug cartels.” But indeed, where could be a better place for drug cartels to deposit their profits than with a financial cartel? And why would banks give up their pivotal role in the global drug trade? While the pharmaceutical drug industry records annual revenues in the hundreds of billions of dollars (which is nothing to ignore), the global trade in illicit drugs, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, amounted to roughly 2.3-5.5% of global GDP, around $2.1 trillion (U.S.) in 2009. That same year, the same United Nations office reported that billions of dollars in drug money saved the major global banks during the financial crisis, as “the only liquid investment capital” pouring into banks. Roughly $325 billion in drug money was absorbed by the financial system in 2009. It is in the interest of banks to continue profiting off of the global drug trade, and now they have been given a full green light by the Obama administration to continue.
Welcome to the world of financial criminality, the “international cartel” of drug money banks and their political protectors. These banks not only launder billions in drug money, finance terrorists and commit massive fraud, but they create massive financial and economic crises, and then our governments give them trillions of dollars in bailouts, again rewarding them for creating crises and committing criminal acts. On top of that, we, the people, are handed the bill for the bailouts and have to pay for them through reduced standards of living by being punished into poverty through ‘austerity measures’ and have our labour, resources, and societies exploited through ‘structural reform’ policies. These criminal banks dominate the global economy, and dictate policies to national political oligarchies. Their greed, power, and parasitic nature knows no bounds.
The fact that the Justice Department refused to prosecute HSBC because of the effects it could have on the financial system should be a clear sign that the financial system does not function for the benefit of people and society as a whole, and thus, that it needs to be dramatically changed, cartels need to be destroyed, banks broken up, criminal behaviour punished (not rewarded), and that people should dictate the policies of society, not a small network of international criminal cartel banks.
But then, that would be rational, so naturally it’s not even up for discussion.
Why is HSBC still in operation? On the same day (December 10, 2012) that the Obama administration leaked the story of the HSBC settlement a story ran in the New York Times that was full of self-praise by the Obama and Cameron (U.K.) governments for their “cooperative approach” to cracking down on systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs). SDIs are treated as “too big to fail” because they pose a global systemic risk when they fail. The HSBC settlement puts the lie to the Obama/Cameron crack-down on the SDIs for it revealed a disgrace – Obama and Cameron treat the SDIs as too big to prosecute. Indeed, HSBC demonstrates that the SDIs’ senior officers are treated by Obama and Cameron as too elite to prosecute. The propaganda meme of the NYT story – that the SDIs would never again be given special favors due to reforms being adopted by Obama and Cameron – lasted four hours before it was destroyed by the disgraceful reality of the Obama and Cameron governments’ refusal to prosecute HSBC and its officers for their tens of thousands of felonies.
The NYT article begins by accepting the Obama/Cameron framing of the SDI issue, without any critical analysis. “It is one of the thorniest problems hanging over the financial system: how should authorities deal with the collapse of a sprawling global bank to protect the financial system at large?” The reporter’s implicit assumption is that we must have banks that are systemically dangerous when they fail.
This example exemplifies why implicit assumptions are so dangerous. They exclude far better alternatives or terrible risks from even being considered – and they do so unknowingly. If the reporter had made the assumption explicitly he would have been forced to defend it with analytics. The article acknowledges that SDIs drove the financial crisis that caused the Great Recession. In the U.S. alone this caused over a $15 trillion loss in wealth and led to the loss, or prevented the creation, of over 10 million jobs. According to the Bush and Obama administrations we were lucky in preventing the crisis from growing vastly larger. SDIs are economic weapons of mass destruction – but they cause their primary destruction inside the nation in which they reside.
Why allow a weapon of mass destruction that primarily destroys your own nation? That is an act of insanity. The City of London cannot credibly threaten the United States by creating SDIs and threatening to destroy the UK’s economy. The proponents of SDIs bear an enormous burden of persuasion to prove why we shouldn’t end the catastrophic danger they pose by shrinking them to the point where they are no longer potential weapons of mass economic destruction. Their burden is even greater when one considers the dominant view of economists that the smaller banks would be more efficient than the SDIs, which are massively too large to manage. The NYT reporter does not even attempt to meet that burden. The reporter also presents no indication that the U.S. and U.K. regulators even considered ending our exposure to these weapons of mass economic destruction.
The article acknowledges that trying to prevent an SDI from causing a systemic, global financial crisis once it fails is likely to fail. First, the regulators are not at all sure that they can prevent a systemic crisis with their “cooperative” proposals. Second, few regulators would risk a global systemic crisis when the alternative of bailing out the failing SDI inherently exists. Regulators have seen the disastrous results of failing to bail out Lehman.
The obvious alternative (to everyone except the reporter, the U.S. and U.K. regulators, and the Obama and Cameron governments who have implicitly assumed it out of existence) is to shrink the SDIs to the point that they no longer pose a systemic risk and to conduct the shrinkage now before they fail. That alternative would vastly reduce the economic WMD and make the banks more efficient – a win-win solution.
The further good news is that those two “wins” are not the limits of the advantages of shrinking the SDIs before they fail. The NYT article, implicitly, assumes the Obama/Cameron framing of another issue critical to determining the SDI policies we should adopt. “‘Too big to fail’ is the label for the problem that confronts governments when a large bank is on its last legs.” The implicit assumption is that SDIs pose a “problem” only when they are on their “last legs.” Had the reporter made this assumption explicitly he would have recognized it is unsupportable. Beyond their inefficiency, SDIs pose grave risks to a nation when they are profitable and growing. SDIs make “free markets”, integrity, and justice impossible to maintain, they create the perverse political power that produces crony capitalism, and they drive the “competition to laxity” that drives regulatory failure. I have explained most of these points in prior writings, so I will summarize.
SDIs’ uninsured, general creditors get bailed out even though the contractual deal they agree to would normally cause them to suffer severe losses. The result is that they can borrow significantly more cheaply from general creditors than can their smaller rivals. SDIs that are insured banks receive an explicit governmental subsidy (deposit insurance), but the implicit federal subsidy to general creditors is far larger and is unique to SDIs. The very conservative economists who authored the book Guaranteed to Fail (2011) describe the implicit subsidy as being so large that it is the metaphorical equivalent of “bringing a gun to a knife fight.” They conclude that the subsidies are so large that they inherently create “a highly distorted market.” Indeed, they argue that the SDIs that created the mortgage crisis so distorted the market that there was “nothing free” about the mortgage markets. The authors also explain the SDIs’ immense political power and their ability to corrupt regulators and regulation.
The HSBC case illustrates why SDIs destroy integrity and justice. Public reports of the results of the government investigations of HSBC describe a bank that has been a criminal enterprise for at least 15 years. The current settlement addresses only three of the many scandals HSBC has committed over that time period. HSBC is a recidivist of epic proportions, but the Obama and Cameron governments have failed to prosecute HSBC or any of its officers. When powerful corporations and their controlling officers grow wealthy through massive frauds and do so with impunity from criminal sanction integrity and justice are eaten away. Effective financial regulation, supervision, and prosecutions are essential to “free” financial markets. When cheaters prosper honest firms are driven from the markets, a point that the Nobel Laureate George Akerlof explained in his famous 1970 article on markets for “lemons.” He described a “Gresham’s” dynamic in which bad ethics drove good ethics from the marketplace.
“[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”
Fraud and the destruction of integrity among SDIs will tend to spread to their market rivals due to this Gresham’s dynamic. The result is another form of systemic risk.
The Justice Department, HSBC’s regulators, and the Obama and Cameron governments had the perfect opportunity to break this Gresham’s dynamic and restore justice and integrity by prosecuting and taking vigorous regulatory steps that forced HSBC to shrink over the next five years to the point that it was no longer an SDI. They could have done so at a time when HSBC was reporting very high profits rather than during a crisis. It was their paramount role and duty as prosecutors and regulators to break the Gresham’s dynamic by restoring the rule of law. Doing so would have been good for the markets, for increased competition, for bank efficiency, for the independence of the regulators and prosecutors, for safety and soundness, and for our democracy. Instead, they made the Gresham’s dynamic far worse, shamed their institutions and professions, and betrayed their duty to the nation and citizenry.
But things are likely far worse than this description suggests, for the pathetic truth is that there is no indication that the regulators, prosecutors, or government leaders considered doing the right thing at HSBC. That is how destructive making implicit assumptions and adopting the pro-crony framing of issues is in the real world. I hope I am wrong and that an insider will resign in disgust and disclose how she fought to shrink HSBC but was overruled by her superiors.
Comments on Dec. 12, 2012 NRC meeting with the Army in Maryland from 10AM-1PM Hawaii time. The public could listen in and make comments/ask questions at the end of the meeting:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will be issuing a license for the mongoose to guard the hen house in Hawaii. The Army will be issued an NRC license to possess Depleted uranium (DU) in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks and the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA). In effect, the NRC is licensing Hawaii nuclear waste dumps and allowing those dumps to be bombed, spreading the nuclear dump debris wherever the wind takes it.
The State Dept. of Health made no comment, nor did it ask any questions following the meeting.
It is a fact that DU exists at Schofield Barracks and PTA, and perhaps other present and former military sites in Hawaii, including Kaho’olawe and Makua Valley. How much is not known. A minimum of 700, perhaps more than 2000, DU Davy Crockett spotting rounds have been fired at Pohakuloa. Less than 1% of PTA’s 133,000-acres have been surveyed. DU cluster bombs, and more than a dozen DU penetrating rounds, DU bunker busters, etc. may also have been fired at PTA and elsewhere. All branches of the US military use DU weapons today.
It’s clear to me that we cannot rely on so called regulators to fix the problem. Nuclear regulators are just as much part of the problem as bank regulators. The DOH is also part of the problem.
Where have our health officials been all these years on the issue. The military in Hawaii has lied and uses deception repeatedly. The US military mission goes before concern for the health and safety of its own troops and Hawaii’s people and land. Uranium is now showing up in Big Island residents’ urine.
Is it related to PTA, Fukushima or what?
The people have a right to know.
Is the military above the law?
What’s needed is a peoples’ movement of non-violent resistance to stop the bombing to protect the people and land of Hawaii against attacks by the U.S. military.
- US military chiefs planned to blow up the moon with nuclear bomb as show of Cold War muscle, physicist claims (independent.co.uk)
- US to supply Israel with weapons worth $650 million (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
While Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez is fighting for his life in Cuba, the liberal press of both sides of the Atlantic (e.g., El Pais ) has not stopped trashing his government. The significance of his victory (12 points ahead of his contender) has yet to be analyzed properly, with evidence. It is remarkable that Chávez would win, sick with cancer, outgunned by the local and international media (think of Syriza’s Greece election) and, rarely acknowledged, an electoral map extremely biased towards the middle and upper classes, with geographical barriers and difficult access to Ids for members of the working classes.
One of the main factors for the popularity of the Chávez Government and its landslide victory in the re-election results of October 2012, is the reduction of poverty, made possible because the government took back control of the national petroleum company PDVSA, and has used the abundant oil revenues, not for benefit of a small class of rentiers as previous governments had done, but to build needed infrastructure and invest in the social services that Venezuelans so sorely needed. During the last ten years, the government has increased social spending by 60.6%, a total of $772 billion [i].
Poverty is not defined solely by lack of income nor is health defined as the lack of illness. Both are correlated and both are multi-factorial, that is, determined by a series of social processes. To make a more objective assessment of the real progress achieved by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela during the last 13 years it is essential to review some of the key available data on the social determinants of health and poverty: education, inequality, jobs and income, health care, food security and social support and services.
With regard to these social determinants of health indicators, Venezuela is now the country in the region with the lowest inequality level (measured by the Gini Coefficient) having reduced inequality by 54%, poverty by 44%. Poverty has been reduced from 70.8% (1996) to 21% (2010). And extreme poverty reduced from 40% (1996) to a very low level of 7.3% (2010). About 20 million people have benefited from anti-poverty programs, called “Misiones” (Up to now, 2.1 million elderly people have received old-age pensions – that is 66% of the population while only 387,000 received pensions before the current government.
Education is a key determinant of both health and poverty and the Bolivarian government has placed a particular emphasis on education allotting it more than 6% of GDP. UNESCO has recognized that illiteracy been eliminated, furthermore, Venezuela is the 3rd most literate country in the region. There is tuition free education from daycare to university; 72% of children attend public daycare and 85% of school age children attend school. There are thousands of new or refurbished schools, including 10 new universities. The country places 2nd in Latin America and 5th in the world with the greatest proportions of university students. In fact, 1 out of every 3 Venezuelans are enrolled in some educational program. [ii] . It is also a great achievement that Venezuela is now tied with Finland as the 5th happiest country in the world [iii] .
Before the Chavez government in 1998, 21% of the population was malnourished. Venezuela now has established a network of subsidized food distribution including grocery stores and supermarkets. While 90% of the food was imported in 1980, today this is less than 30%. Misión Agro-Venezuela has given out 454,238 credits to rural producers and 39,000 rural producers have received credit in 2012 alone. Five million Venezuelan receive free food, four million of them are children in schools and 6,000 food kitchens feed 900,000 people. The agrarian reform and policies to help agricultural producers have increased domestic food supply. The results of all these food security measures is that today malnourishment is only 5%, and child malnutrition which was 7.7% in 1990 today is at 2.9%. This is an impressive health achievement by any standard.
Some of the most important available data on health care and public health are the following [iv], [v], [vi]:
*infant mortality dropped from 25 per 1000 (1990) to only 13/1000 (2010);
*An outstanding 96% of the population now has access to clean water (one of the goals of the revolution);
*In 1998, there were 18 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants, currently there are 58, and the public health system has about 95,000 physicians;
*It took four decades for previous governments to build 5,081 clinics, but in just 13 years the Bolivarian government built 13,721 (a 169.6% increase);
*Barrio Adentro (i.e., primary care program with the help of more than 8,300 Cuban doctors) has saved approximately 1.4 million lives in 7,000 clinics and has given 500 million consultations;
*In 2011 alone, 67,000 Venezuelans received free high cost medicines for 139 pathological conditions including cancer, hepatitis, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, and others; there are now 34 centers for addictions,
*In 6 years 19,840 homeless have been assisted through a special program; and there are practically no children living on the streets.
*Venezuela now has the largest intensive care unit in the region.
*A network of public drugstores sell subsidized medicines in 127 stores with savings of 34-40%.
*51,000 people have been treated in Cuba for specialized eye treatment and the eye care program “Mision Milagro”; has restored sight to 1.5 million Venezuelans.
An example of how the government has tried to respond in a timely fashion to the real needs of its people is the situation that occurred in 2011 when heavy tropical rains left 100,000 people homeless. They were immediately sheltered temporarily in all manner of public buildings and hotels and, in one and a half years, the government built 250,000 houses. The government has obviously not eradicated all social ills, but its people do recognize that, despite any shortcomings and mistakes, it is a government that is on their side, trying to use its resources to meet their needs. Part of this equation is the intense political participation that the Venezuelan democracy stands for, that includes 30,000 communal councils, which determine local social needs and oversee their satisfaction and allows the people to be protagonists of the changes they demand.[vii]
The Venezuelan economy has low debts, high petroleum reserves and high savings, yet Western economists that oppose President Chávez repeat ad nauseam that the Venezuelan economy is not “sustainable” and predict its demise when the oil revenues stop. Ironically they do not hurl these dire predictions to other oil economies such as Canada or Saudi Arabia. They conveniently ignore that Venezuela’s oil reserves of 500 billion barrels of oil is the largest in the world and consider the social investment of oil revenues a waste or futile endeavor. However, these past 13 years, the Bolivarian government has been building up an industrial and agricultural infrastructure that 40 years of previous governments had neglected and its economy continues to get stronger even in the face of a global financial crisis.
An indication of the increasing diversification of the economy is the fact that the State now obtains almost as much revenue from tax collection as from the sale of oil, since it strengthened its capacity for tax collection and wealth redistribution.
Economic milestones these last ten years include reduction in unemployment from 11.3% to 7.7%; doubling the number of people receiving social insurance benefits, and the flourishing of cooperatives has strengthened local endogenous economies. In general, the Venezuelan economy has grown 47.4% in ten years, that is, 4.3% per annum. [viii].
Today many European countries would look jealously at these figures. Economists who studied the Venezuelan economy in detail for years indicate that, “The predictions of economic collapse, balance of payments or debt crises and other gloomy prognostications, as well as many economic forecasts along the way, have repeatedly proven wrong… Venezuela’s current economic growth is sustainable and could continue at the current pace or higher for many years.” [ix] .
According to Global Finance and the CIA World Factbook, the Venezuelan economy presents the following indicators [x]: unemployment rate of 8%; 45.5% government (public) debt as a percent of GDP (by contrast the European Union debt/GDP is 82.5%); and a real GDP growth: GDP per capita is $13,070.
In 2011, the Venezuelan economy defied most forecasts by growing 4.2 percent, and was up 5.6 percent in the first half of 2012. It has a debt-to-GDP ratio comfortably below the U.S. and the UK, and stronger than European countries; an inflation rate, an endemic problem during many decades, that has fallen to a four-year low, or 13.7%, over the most recent 2012 quarter. Even The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela’s stock exchange is by far the best-performing stock market in the world, reaching an all-time high in October 2012, and Venezuela’s bonds are some of the best performers in emerging markets.
Hugo Chavez’s victory had an impact around the world as he is recognized as having spearheaded radical change not only in his own country but in all Latin America where progressive governments have also been elected, thereby reshaping the global order. The victory was even more significant considering the enormous financial and strategic help that the USA agencies and allies gave to the opposition parties and media. Since 2002, Washington channeled $100 million to opposition groups in Venezuela and this election year alone, distributed US$ 40-50 million there. [xi] But the Venezuelan people disregarded the barrage of propaganda unleashed against the president by the media that is 95% privately owned and anti-Chavez. [xii]. The tide of progressive change in the region has started to build the infrastructure for the first truly independent South America with political integration organizations such as Bank of the South, CELAC, ALBA, PETROSUR, PETROCARIBE, UNASUR, MERCOSUR, TELESUR and thus have demonstrated to the rest of the world that there are, after all, economic and social alternatives in the 21st century [xiii]. Following a different model of development from that of global capitalism in sharp contrast to Europe, debt levels across Latin America are low and falling.
The changes in Venezuela are not abstract. The government of President Chávez has significantly improved the living conditions of Venezuelans and engaged them in dynamic political participation to achieve it [xiv]. This new model of socialist development has had a phenomenal impact all over Latin America, including Colombia of late, and the progressive left of center governments that are now the majority in the region see in Venezuela the catalyst that that has brought more democracy, national sovereignty and economic and social progress to the region [xv]. No amount of neoliberal rhetoric can dispute these facts. Dozens of opinionated experts can go on forever on whether the Bolivarian Revolution is or is not socialist, whether it is revolutionary or reformist (it is likely to be both ), yet at the end of the day these substantial achievements remain. This is what infuriates its opponents the most both inside Venezuela and most notably, from neocolonialist countries. The “objective” and “empiricist” The Economist will not publicize this data, preferring to predict once again the imminent collapse of the Venezuelan economy and El Pais, in Spain, would rather have one of the architects of the Caracazo (the slaughter of 3000 people in Caracas protesting the austerity measures of 1989), the minister of finance of the former government Moises Naim, go on with his anti-Chávez obsession. But none of them can dispute that the UN Human Development Index situates Venezuela in place #61 out of 176 countries having increased 7 places in 10 years.
And that is one more reason why Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution will survive Venezuela’s Socialist leader.
Carles Muntaner is Professor of Nursing, Public Health and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He has been working on the public health aspects of the Bolivarian Revolution for more than a decade including Muntaner C, Chung H, Mahmood Q and Armada F. “History Is Not Over. The Bolivarian Revolution, Barrio Adentro and Health Care in Venezuela.” In T Ponniah and J Eastwood The Revolution in Venezuela. Harvard: HUP, 2011
María Páez Victor is a Venezuelan sociologist, specializing in health and medicine.
Joan Benach is a professor of Public Health at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. He has collaborated in a number of studies on the public health policies of the Bolivarian Revolution.
[i] Páez Victor, Maria. “Why Do Venezuelan Women Vote for Chavez?” Counterpunch, 24 April 2012
[ii] Venezuela en Noticias, Venezuela en Noticias <firstname.lastname@example.org> Venezuela en Noticias, Venezuela en Noticias email@example.com
[iii] Gallup Poll 2010
[iv] Muntaner C, Chung H, Mahmood Q and Armada F. “History Is Not Over. The Bolivarian Revolution, Barrio Adentro and Health Care in Venezuela.” In T Ponniah and J Eastwood The Revolution in Venezuela. Harvard: HUP, 2011 pp 225-256; see also 4, Muntaner et al 2011, 5, Armada et al 2009; 6, Zakrison et al 2012
[v] Armada, F., Muntaner, C., & Navarro, V. (2001). “Health and social security reforms in Latin America: The convergence of the world health organization, the world bank, and transnational corporations.” International Journal of Health Services, 31(4), 729-768.
[vi] Zakrison TL, Armada F, Rai N, Muntaner C. ”The politics of avoidable blindness in Latin America–surgery, solidarity, and solutions: the case of Misión Milagro.”Int J Health Serv. 2012;42(3):425-37.
[vii] Ismi, Asad. “The Bolivarian Revolution Gives Real Power to the People.” The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor , December 2009/January.http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/latin-american-revolution-part-iv
[viii] Carmona, Adrián. “Algunos datos sobre Venezuela”, Rebelión, March 2012
[ix] Weisbrot, Mark and Johnston, Jake. “Venezuela’s Economic Recovery: Is It Sustainable?” Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, D.C., September 2012.
[x] Hunziker , Robert. “Venezuela and the Wonders of Equality”. October 15th, 2012
[xi] Golinger, Eva. “US$20 million for the Venezuelan Opposition in 2012”, http://www.chavezcode.com/2011/08/us-20-million-for-venezuelan-opposition.html
[xii] Páez Victor, Maria. “Chavez wins Over Powerful Foreign Conglomerate Against Him”, Periódico América Latina, 11 October, 2012
[xiii] Milne, Seumas. “The Chávez Victory Will be Felt Far Beyond Latin America” , Associate Editor, The Guardian, October 9, 2012:
[xiv] Alvarado, Carlos, César Arismendi, Francisco Armada, Gustavo Bergonzoli, Radamés Borroto, Pedro Luis Castellanos, Arachu Castro, Pablo Feal, José Manuel García, Renato d´A. Gusmão, Silvino Hernández, María Esperanza Martínez, Edgar Medina, Wolfram Metzger, Carles Muntaner, Aldo Muñoz, Standard Núñez, Juan Carlos Pérez, and Sarai Vivas. 2006. “Mission Barrio Adentro: The Right to Health and Social Inclusion in Venezuela”. Caracas: PAHO/Venezuela.
[xv] Weisbrot, Mark.”Why Chávez Was Re-elected”. New York Times. Oct 10th 2012
- Does Hugo Chavez Keep Fooling Venezuelans? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
BETHLEHEM – Relatives and a Palestinian human rights group on Thursday disputed Israel’s claim that a Palestinian teenager killed in Hebron was carrying a toy gun.
An Israeli border guard shot dead Muhammad al-Salaymeh on Wednesday, his 17th birthday.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma’an on Thursday that he had nothing to add to initial findings immediately after the shooting that Muhammad pointed a fake gun at forces at a checkpoint in the southern West Bank city.
An investigation by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights found that Muhammad was on his way home from buying a birthday cake when he arrived at the checkpoint.
PCHR found that another child, who had a plastic pistol, was being detained by troops. When Muhammad reached the checkpoint he was shot by a border guard at close range, killing him immediately, PCHR said.
The teen’s uncle, also named Muhammad Salaymeh, said the Israeli police’s version of events did not ring true.
“We live in a place which is like a military base for Israeli forces; dozens of soldiers are spread out over the area, checkpoints and cameras are everywhere to watch our movements,” he told Ma’an.
“Every resident knows exactly the difficulties anyone will have for just carrying a black plastic bag, we’re being searched and watched constantly … Muhammad lived in this area and was aware that any unusual movement will put him in trouble.”
His uncle continued: “The boy went to the store to buy his gift in order to celebrate his 17th birthday with his mother, father and siblings. Why would he pull out a weapon and point it at soldiers? ”
“Plastic guns are for toys for children under the age of 10, why would Muhammad hold a fake gun?”
Israeli forces kept al-Salaymah’s body for over two hours before handing him over the Palestine Red Crescent Society, releasing the body on condition the teenager was not buried in the al-Raas cemetery near the family home, relatives and PCHR said.
Meanwhile, Muhammad’s colleagues from his sporting career expressed grief at losing the talented teenager.
“The Palestinian sporting community lost a promising hero,” Abdul Arim al-Jaabari, director of the Palestinian union for wrestling, told Ma’an.
Al-Salaymah represented Palestine in international wrestling tournaments and had won gold and silver medals, al-Jaabari said.
He had also studied to with the Palestinian Circus School for nearly two years, learning to perform juggling, acrobatics and the human pyramid, the school’s manager Shadi Zmorrod told Ma’an.
“He was completely in love with the circus … every Saturday he was the first student waiting for the trainers to arrive,” Zmorrod said.
“Muhammad was super kind, polite, a very gentle little person. He was was totally different to other students who come from Hebron’s Old City where they frequently come across violence — that is what shocked us (about his death.)”
Just days ago Muhammad was pestering Zmorrod to set up a circus event for young children in Hebron’s Old City, he said.
- Israeli forces kill teenager on his 17th birthday in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israeli forces have assaulted two cameramen working for Reuters news agency in the occupied West bank, forcing them to strip on the street.
Yousri Al Jamal and Ma’amoun Wazwaz said on Thursday that an Israeli military patrol stopped them as they were on their way to a checkpoint in the West Bank city of al-Khalil, where a Palestinian youth had been earlier killed by Israeli forces.
The cameramen added that the Israeli troops punched and hit them with the butts of their guns after they made the cameramen get off their vehicle, which was marked as belonging to “TV.”
The two were also wearing blue flak jackets with the word “Press” printed on them.
The soldiers who attacked the Reuters employees accused them of working for B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization which documents human rights violations in the occupied West Bank.
However, the cameramen said the forces did not give them the chance to show their identification cards and made them strip and kneel down on the road.
Wazwaz was overcome by the fumes and taken to a hospital after the Israeli forces dropped a tear gas canister and ran away from the scene.
According to the cameramen, two other Palestinian journalists working for local news agencies were also arrested by Israeli soldiers at the same location.
Stephen J. Adler, chief editor of Reuters News said, “We deplore the mistreatment of our journalists and have registered our extreme dismay with the Israeli military authorities.”
The Israeli military has offered no explanation for the attack on the journalists and says it will investigate the issue.
On Thursday, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian teenager on his birthday after he allegedly threatened them with a toy gun in the occupied West Bank.
The New York Times updates readers today (12/13/12) on the health status of left-wing Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and the political implications for his country. But the paper starts out by suggesting that the people who keep electing him must have some kind of problem.
According to the Times’ William Neuman, life in Venezuela is pretty dismal. Christmas tree shipments were fouled up, a government ice cream factory closed down, and “all of this happened while the economy was growing — before the slowdown many predict next year.”
Such frustrations are typical in Venezuela, for rich and poor alike, and yet President Hugo Chávez has managed to stay in office for nearly 14 years, winning over a significant majority of the public with his outsize personality, his free-spending of state resources and his ability to convince Venezuelans that the Socialist revolution he envisions will make their lives better.
So people believe that, somewhere in the future, life will get better thanks to Chávez? But it’s already happened for the majority of Venezuelans. As Mark Weisbrot wrote (Guardian, 10/3/12):
Since 2004, when the government gained control over the oil industry and the economy had recovered from the devastating, extra-legal attempts to overthrow it (including the 2002 US-backed military coup and oil strike of 2002-2003), poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70%. And this measures only cash income. Millions have access to healthcare for the first time, and college enrolment has doubled, with free tuition for many students. Inequality has also been considerably reduced. By contrast, the two decades that preceded Chávez amount to one of the worst economic failures in Latin America, with real income per person actually falling by 14% between 1980 and 1998.
It’s not that Neuman is unaware of this. Deep in the piece– after saying that “Mr. Chávez’s own record is mixed”– he admits, in between all the hand-waving and caveats, that maybe there’s something that explains Chávez’s popularity:
He has used price controls to make food affordable for the poor, but that has contributed to shortages in basic goods. He created a popular program of neighborhood clinics often staffed by Cuban doctors, but hospitals frequently lack basic equipment.
There is no doubt that living conditions have improved for the poor under Mr. Chávez, and that is the greatest source of his popularity. But the improvements came at a time when high oil prices were pouring money into the country and fueling economic growth, which some analysts say would have led to similar improvements under many leaders, even some with more market-friendly policies.
So life is better for the vast majority of the country. That’s a far cry from the point he stressed at the beginning, that Chávez has somehow sold people on the questionable idea that the outlook would someday improve. The Times has to downplay that reality so you’ll take away the message: things are bad there. Or, if they’re not, someone else with superior, “market-friendly policies” could have achieved the same results, if not better.