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Operation Condor-Era Argentine Dictator Gets Life Imprisonment

teleSUR | March 16, 2017

An Argentine federal court on Wednesday sentenced former military dictator Reynaldo Bignone to life imprisonment for his role in kidnapping, torturing and murdering anti-government protesters during the 1970s and 80s.

Bignone, along with six other former military leaders, was convicted for “crimes against humanity.” He was also charged for human rights violations against conscripts of Argentina’s Military College that occurred between 1976 and 1977.

Dubbed “Argentina’s last dictator,” Bignone ruled as president from 1982 to 1983, representing the country’s right-wing military dictatorship that arose during the Dirty War.

The Dirty War was Argentina’s offshoot of Operation Condor, a Cold War-era campaign of violence across Latin America. Through the campaign, which resulted in tens of thousands of activist deaths, the U.S. teamed up with right-wing military dictatorships to extinguish leftist movements.

With help from death squads, Argentina’s military dictatorship ruthlessly murdered thousands of left-wing students, journalists, labor leaders and armed militants. Bignone, who played a leading role in organizing the Dirty War, oversaw the mass disappearance of socialist activists throughout his tenure.

“This ruling, about the coordination of military dictatorships in the Americas to commit atrocities, sets a powerful precedent to ensure that these grave human rights violations do not ever take place again in the region,” Human Rights Watch Americas director told Reuters last year, when Bignone was first found guilty.

Last month, Argentina’s former army chief Cesar Milani was arrested on charges related to the kidnapping and torture of three people during the Dirty War. Milani, a retired general who headed Argentina’s military from 2012 to 2015, was arrested in the northern province of La Rioja.

His arrest was part of Federal Judge Daniel Herrera’s investigation into the 1977 kidnapping and torture of Pedro Olivera and his son Ramon, as well as the 1976 abduction of then 17-year-old Verónica Matta.

“We are happy because we believe, somehow, that we are on the path to really having justice done,” Ramon Olivera, one of the accusers, told Todo Noticias television. “It is an auspicious thing that Milani was detained.”

Both Bignone and Milani were close allies of the U.S. during their time in office.

March 17, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Argentine Indigenous Leader Milagro Sala Hit With New Sentence

Jailed leader Milagro Sala attends a hearing in Jujuy, Dec. 28, 2016.

teleSUR | December 30, 2016

An Argentine court slapped a new sentence against jailed Indigenous leader Milagro Sala Thursday, just a day after she was handed down a three-year suspended prison sentence for being guilty of “aggravated damages” linked to a protest she led against the conservative government in her home province in Jujuy.

The Jujuy court issued Sala the maximum fine of 3,870 Argentina pesos — nearly half the monthly minimum wage of 8,060 pesos — and prohibited her from participating in any civic and political organizations for three years, the same term as her suspended prison sentence.

Sala was charged with a misdemeanor of “occupying public space, disorderly conduct and the obstruction of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.” The court also ordered the Tupac Amaru organization that Sala leads to shut down its location in Jujuy.

Sala, who has been dubbed the first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri’s administration, was jailed last January after leading a 52-day sit-in against Jujuy governor and Macri ally Gerardo Morales.

She was initially detained on accusations of inciting mob violence with the occupation — a protest that was reportedly carried out in a peaceful manner — but was soon hit with a barrage of other charges of alleged corruption and illicit enrichment that kept her behind bars for months as investigations continued.

The new three year prohibition of Sala’s participation in social and political organizations extends until the end of Morales’ term as the governor of Jujuy.

After being jailed for nearly a year, on Wednesday a court handed her three years probation with a suspended prison sentence.

Sala is the leader and founder of Tupac Amaru, a 70,000 member-strong organization inspired by the ideals of South American Indigenous liberator Tupac Amaru, revolutionary leader Che Guevara, and former Argentine First Lady Eva Peron, that works with Indigenous and poor communities on a number of political issues.

She is also a lawmaker with the parliament of the sub-regional South American trade bloc Mercosur, known as Parlasur, though her detention has blocked her from being able to fulfill her parliamentary duties.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has slammed Sala’s arrest as arbitrary, calling for her immediate release. President Macri ignored the ruling.

Social movements have also rallied behind Milagro Sala, demanding her release as well as freedom for other political prisoners.

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Argentina to Reopen Jewish Center Bombing Case Against Cristina

teleSUR | December 29, 2016

An Argentine federal appeals court will order the reopening of a probe that accuses former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish center in 1994, state news agency Telam said on Thursday.

Two years earlier the prosecutor who initially made the accusation, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman had said Fernandez worked behind the scenes to clear Iran and normalize relations to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.

Nisman’s death rocked Argentina, with some trying to pin the blame on the government of Fernandez, whose late husband President Nestor Kirchner ordered the investigation into the AMIA bombing. However, courts have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of an official conspiracy.

Fernandez’s government said Nisman’s murder was perpetrated by rogue agents from the defunct Secretariat of Intelligence — a holdover from Argentina’s Dirty War era — which was dissolved immediately after his death, but a report by Reuters revealed that President Mauricio Macri’s government wants to revive the infamous agency, sparking fears of a return to authoritarian rule and open class warfare in the country.

Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing, and an Argentine judge in February 2015 dismissed Nisman’s accusations as baseless. A review panel later agreed, finding insufficient evidence to formally investigate the president.

Still, a delegation of Argentine Jewish associations pushed Macri to reopen the case, citing new evidence.

Fernandez has faced numerous criminal charges since leaving office a year ago. Earlier this week, she was indicted on corruption charges arising from allegations she skimmed money intended for public works projects, which her supporters say are being launched used to prevent Fernandez from running for office in the future.

December 31, 2016 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

New Files Reveal US Sold Argentina Military Aircraft to Dump Bodies in Ocean

The U.S. provided Argentina with army helicopters despite knowing they were used for death flights.

teleSUR | December 16, 2016

Declassified documents on Operation Condor reveal that the U.S. knew and assisted the Argentine dictatorship as it threw unconscious prisoners to their death in notorious “vuelos de la muerte,” or death flights.

Under the military dictatorship in Argentina, thousands of political opponents were drugged, tossed into aircraft and dumped in the Atlantic Ocean to drown.

According to Adolfo Scilingo, an Argentine naval officer during the dictatorship, the navy conducted death flights every Wednesday between 1977 and 1978, killing up to 2,000 people.

Newly released documents on Operation Condor, the 1970s covert efforts to topple and temper progressive governments outright in South America, show that the U.S. not only knew about the lethal flights — they provided military equipment.

An intelligence report, dated July 1978, states, “terrorists and subversives selected for elimination were now being administered injections of Ketalar.”

“Ketalar is administered in an intra-muscular injection to the prisoner as a preventive health measure, the subject rapidly loses consciousness and vital functions cease. Source alleges that subjects are then disposed of in rivers or the ocean.”

But despite being aware of the horrific death flights, the United States proceeded to sell Argentina army helicopters.

Two months after describing the “new drug” used to paralyze so-called terrorists, then-U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale met with Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla in Rome.

Included in his meeting checklist was a reaffirmation to “improve relations, and to take steps that will lead to such improvement.”

It continues, “As a token of our interest we have taken steps to release export licenses for ambulance aircraft, army helicopters, airport radar equipment and other items.”

Reports suggest Argentina’s death flights began in 1976 and continued until 1983, killing thousands of political opponents — likely with the help of U.S. aircraft.

In 2016, Francisco Bossi, the mastermind of the death flights, confessed to murdering 6,000 people.

The revelations of U.S. involvement and support of the brutal dictatorship come after the Obama administration declassified 500 pages on repression in Argentina during the military regime.

The declassified documents have revealed the U.S. supported torture, tried to “liquidate” human rights activists and destabilize Latin American leftist governments.

RELATED:

New Operation Condor Files Show Terror, Torture in Argentina

December 17, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Argentina Not Only Wants To Bring In E-Voting, It Will Make It Illegal To Check The System For Electoral Fraud

By Glyn Moody | TechDirt | October 7, 2016

Earlier this year, we wrote about Australia’s refusal to allow researchers to check e-voting software being used in that country. The situation in Argentina seems to be even worse. Access Now provides the background (original in Spanish):

The ruling party in Argentina is driving the adoption of an electronic voting system for national elections. Despite stern warnings from computer security experts about the dangers of the system, the ruling party is persisting with the project and plans to put it to a vote in Congress in the coming weeks.

Techdirt readers hardly need to be reminded about the deeply-flawed nature of e-voting systems, but there’s a useful article on Medium (in Spanish) with plenty of links to hispanophone experts from widely-different backgrounds warning against the move.Imposing an e-voting system may be foolish, but Argentina’s plans manage to magnify that folly many times over. A blog post in Spanish by Javier Smaldone explains why:

The proposal provides for imprisonment (1 to 6 years) for conducting activities that are essential in any audit or independent review of the system.

Thus, it is intended to impose the use of computer system in the casting and counting of votes, and as if it were not already extremely difficult for any citizen to be sure how it works (and it is safe), anyone who tries to find out is punished with imprisonment.

It’s one thing to bring in an e-voting system that most experts say is a bad idea in theory. But making it effectively illegal to point out flaws that exist in practice is really asking for trouble. Unless this proposed law is changed to allow independent scrutiny of the systems, Argentina will probably find this out the hard way.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Argentine General and 28 Others Sentenced to Life for Crimes Against Humanity

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teleSUR | August 25, 2016

An Argentine court sentenced former General Luciano Benjamin Menendez to life in prison Thursday for crimes against humanity committed at secret Dirty War-era detention centers in the late 1970s, making a landmark step in the struggle for justice for human rights abuses during one of the darkest chapters in the South American country’s history.

Menendez stood trial with 42 other defendants who will also be sentenced today after a nearly four year so-called “mega-trial” involving events related to over 700 victims.

The general was in charge of two clandestine jails, known as La Perla and La Ribera, in the province of Cordoba where torture, assassinations, and other human rights abuses were carried out during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. He was charged with over 600 cases of torture, over 300 murders and forced disappearances, unlawful detentions, and other crimes against humanity committed at the two detention centers between 1976 and 1978.

Thousands of people, including the families of victims and social movements such as the iconic Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, filled the streets outside of the federal court in the province of Cordoba to await the announcement under the banner of remembering the 30,000 disappeared during the dictatorship.

Former military intelligence agent Arnoldo Jose Lopez, former military man Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, and former military captain Hector Pedro Vergez were also found to be among the principle masterminds responsible for the abuses and sentenced to life in jail for charges of hundreds of aggravated homicides, among other crimes.

Ricardo Alberto Lardone and Oreste Valentin Padovan, both considered among the special command at La Perla responsible for carrying out torture and kidnappings, were also sentenced to life in jail.

A total of 28 of the 43 accused were handed life sentences, nine were sentenced to up to 21 years, and six were acquitted.

The case was also historic for marking the first time a court in Cordoba tried charges of illegal apprension of babies during the dictatorship, a military practice of stealing babies from political dissidents, detainees, and victims of forced disappearance and handing them over the families linked to the military regime. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo has struggled for nearly 40 years to identify their missing grandchildren and reunite them with their families.

The La Perla case dealt with forced disappearance of Silvina Monica Parodi de Orozco, who was over six months pregnant when she and her husband Daniel Francisco Orozco were kidnapped. Silvina’s mother Sonia Torres is still searching for her missing grandchild, whose whereabouts has never been known.

The landmark trial brought together 21 separate cases of crimes against humanity at the hands of the Argentine military, police, and paramilitary forces immediately leading up to and in the years after the 1976 military coup against left-wing President Isabel Peron. The case heard some 600 witnesses provide testimony over the course of 350 hearings related to the 716 victims. Less than half, 340, of the victims survived. Most of the others, 311, were disappeared with no documentation of what happened to them, and the rest were killed.

La Perla was the second most important detention center in the country in the early years of the military dictatorship. Between 2,500 and 3,000 victims of state terrorism were detained at the secret military prison between 1976 and 1977, and it is though to have stopped operating by 1978, according to local media.

A 1979 U.S. Department of State memo included in a batch of over 1,000 pages of recently-declassifed documents related to Argentina’s Dirty War reveals that the U.S. Embassy was aware that “physical torture” was practiced at La Perla in 1976 and 1977. A 1978 State Department recommendation memo to then-President Jimmy Carter characterized General Menendez as as a “hardline general,” and another document indicated that Menendez was pushing for “continued strong efforts to battle ‘ideological subversion.'”

Argentina’s U.S.-backed Dirty War disappeared an estimated 30,000 victims in its brutal state terrorism campaign against suspected political dissidents, which involved systematic forced disappearances, torture, rape, and assassinations. Argentine human rights groups have dubbed the bloody era a “genocide” against political dissidents.

August 25, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Declassified Documents Detail US Role in Argentine Dirty War Horrors

teleSUR | August 9, 2016

In a much-awaited step toward uncovering the historical truth of the U.S.-backed Dirty War in Argentina in the 1970’s and 80’s, the United States has delivered over 1,000 pages of classified documents to the South American country. But critics argue that there are major gaps in the files, including the exclusion of CIA documents, that keep in the dark important details of the extent of human rights violations and the U.S. role in such abuses.

The Argentine government delivered the newly-declassified documents to journalists and human rights organizations on Monday after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented the files to President Mauricio Macri during a state visit last week.

The 1,078 pages from 14 U.S. government agencies and departments are the first in a series of public releases over the next 18 months of declassified documents related to Argentina’s last military dictatorship, including Argentine Country Files, White House staff files, correspondence cables, and other archives, according to a statement from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The files include grisly descriptions of torture, rape, assassinations, and forced disappearances carried out by the military regime under General Jorge Rafael Videla, installed after the 1976 coup against left-wing President Isabel Peron.

The documents also detail Henry Kissinger’s applause of the Argentine dictatorship and its counterinsurgency strategy, including during a visit to General Videla during the 1978 World Cup. National Security staffer Robert Pastor wrote in 1978 that Kissinger’s “praise for the Argentine government in its campaign against terrorism was the music the Argentine government was longing to hear.”

Argentina’s so-called anti-terrorism policy was in reality a brutal crackdown on political dissidents, human rights defenders, academics, church leaders, students, and other opponents of the right-wing regime. It was also part of the regional U.S.-backed Operation Condor, a state terror operation that carried out assassinations and disappearances in support of South America’s right-wing dictatorships. In Argentina, up to 30,000 people were forcibly disappeared during the Dirty War.

The documents also detail how then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter raised concern over the human rights situation in Argentina, including in a letter to General Videla rather gently urging him to make progress with respect to human rights. At the time, Kissinger reportedly demonstrates a “desire to speak out against the Carter Administration’s human rights policy to Latin America,” according to a memo by National Security’s Pastor.

The further confirmation of Kissinger’s atrocious legacy in Latin America comes as U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton courts an endorsement from Kissinger, widely condemned as a war criminal by human rights groups.

However, despite the revealing details, the batch of documents is also lacking in key archives, the Argentine publication El Destape pointed out. The package does not include files from the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency, which specializes in military intelligence.

What’s more, although the documents were expected to cover the period of 1977 to 1982, the latest documents are dated 1981, which means that cables related to the 1982 Malvinas War between Argentina and Britain and the U.S. role in the conflict are not included.

The Macri administration hailed the release of the documents as the result of a “new foreign policy” that has steered the country to rekindle ties with the United States after former Presidents Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Fernandez championed anti-imperialist politics for 12 years. But the self-congratulatory government narrative ignores the fact that Argentine human rights organizations have demanded for years that the archives be released in a fight for historical truth that first bore fruit in 2002 with the release of over 4,500 U.S. documents.

Furthermore, Macri has come under fire for undermining investigations into dictatorship-era crimes after his sweeping austerity campaign scrapped departments charged with gathering historical evidence in certain public institutions. The Argentine president has also been criticized over his indirect ties to the military regime, which proved to hugely benefit his family business, the Macri Society, also known as Socma.

U.S. President Obama described the move as a response to the U.S. “responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.” Obama announced plans to release documents related to the Dirty War during a visit with Macri in Argentina in March, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the 1976 military coup.

Obama’s visit was widely criticized by human rights activists over the insensitivity of the timing. Although he announced plans for the United States to “do its part” with respect to uncovering historical truth about the dictatorship period, he did not apologize for the United States’ involvement in human rights abuses and widespread forced disappearance.

August 10, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Washington’s ‘New Managers’ in Latin America: Oligarchs, Bankers and Swindlers

By James Petras :: 07.07.2016

Amid raging corruption, social pathologies and outright political thuggery, a new gang of vassal regimes has taken-over Latin America. The new rulers are strictly recruited as the protégé’s of US financial and banking institutions. Hence the financial press refers to them as the “new managers” – of Wall Street.

The US financial media has once again provided a political cover for the vilest crimes committed by the ‘new managers’ as they launch their offensive against labor and in favor of the foreign and domestic financiers.

To understand the dynamics of the empire’s new vassal managers we will proceed by identifying (1) the illicit power grab (2) the neo-liberal policies they have pursued (3) the impact of their program on the class structure (4) their economic performance and future socio-political perspectives.

Vassals as Managers of Empire

Latin America’s current vassalage elite is of longer and shorter duration.

The regimes of longer duration with a historical legacy of submission, corruption and criminality include Mexico and Colombia where oligarchs, government officials and death squads cohabit in close association with the US military, business and banking elites.

Over the past decades 100,000 citizens were murdered in Mexico and over 4 million peasants were dispossessed in Colombia. In both regimes over ten million acres of farmland and mining terrain were transferred to US and EU multinationals.

Hundreds of billions of illicit narco earnings were laundered by the Colombian and Mexican oligarchy to their US accounts via private banks.

The current political managers, Peña in Mexico and Santos in Colombia are rapidly de-nationalizing strategic oil and energy sectors, while savaging dynamic social movements – hundreds of students and teachers in Mexico and thousands of peasants and human rights activists in Colombia have been murdered.

The new wave of imperial vassals has seized power throughout most of Latin America with the direct and indirect intervention of the US. In 2009, Honduras President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by a military coup backed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Zelaya’s program of agrarian reform, regional integration (with Venezuela) and constitutional elections was abolished. Zelaya was replaced by a US vassal, Roberto Micheletti who proceeded to murder several hundred landless rural workers and indigenous activists.

Washington moved to organize a constitutional cover by promoting a highly malleable landowner, Porfirio Lobo Sosa to the presidency.

The State Department next ousted Paraguyan President Francisco Lugo who governed between 2008-2012. Lugo promoted a moderate agrarian reform and a centrist regional integration agenda.

With the backing of Secretary of State Clinton, the Paraguayan oligarchy in Congress seized power , fabricated an impeachment decree and ousted President Lugo. He was briefly replaced by Vice President Federico Franco (2012-2013).

In 2013, Washington backed , the capital, Asuncion’s, notorious crime boss for President, one Horacio Castes – convicted for currency fraud in 1989, drug running in 1990, and most recently (2010) money laundering.

The Honduras and Paraguayan coups established (in miniature) the precedent for a new wave of ‘big country’ political vassals. The State Department moved toward the acceleration of banking takeovers in Brazil, Argentina and Peru.

In rapid succession, between December 2015 and April 2016 vassal managers seized power in Argentina and Brazil. In Argentina millionaire Mauricio Macri ruled by decree, bypassing constitutional legality. Macri fired scores of thousands of public service workers, closed social agencies and appointed judges and prosecutors without Congressional vote. He arbitrarily arrested social movement leaders – violating democratic procedures.

Macri’s Economic and Finance Ministers gained millions of dollars by ‘buying into’ multinational oil companies just prior to handing over private options on public enterprises.

The all-encompassing swindles and fraud carried out by the ‘new managers’ were covered up by the US media, who praised Macri’s professional team.

Moreover, Macri’s economic performance was a disaster. Exorbitant user fees on utilities and transport for consumers and business enterprises, increased three to ten-fold, forcing bankruptcy rates to soar and households to suffer light and gas closures.

Wall Street vulture funds received a seven billion dollar payment from Macri’s managers, for defaulted loans purchased for pennies over a dollar, twenty-fold greater then the original lenders.

Data based on standard economic indicators highlights the worst economic performance in a decade and a half.

Price inflation exceeds 40%; public debt increased by twenty percent in six months. Living standards and employment sharply declined. Growth and investment data was negative. Mismanagement, official corruption and arbitrary governance, did not induce confidence among local small and medium size businesses.

The respectable media, led by the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post falsified every aspect of Macri’s regime. Failed economic policies implemented by bankers turned cabinet ministers were dubbed long-term successes; crude ideologically driven policies promoting foreign investor profiteering were re-invented as business incentives.

Political thugs dismantled and replaced civil service agencies were labelled ‘a new management team’ by the vulgar propaganda scribes of the financial press.

In Brazil, a phony political power grab by Congressional opportunists ousted elected President Dilma Rousseff. She was replaced by a Washington approved serial swindler and notorious bribe taker, Michel Temer.

The new economic managers were predictably controlled by Wall Street, World Bank and IMF bankers. They rushed measures to slash wages, pensions and other social expenditures, to lower business taxes and privatize the most lucrative public enterprises in transport, infrastructure, landholdings, oil and scores of other activities.

Even as the prostitute press lauded Brazil’s new managers’, prosecutors and judges arrested three newly appointed cabinet ministers for fraud and money laundering. ‘President’ Temer is next in line for prosecution for his role in the mega Petrobras oil contracts scandal for bribes and payola.

The economic agenda by the new managers are not designed to attract new productive investments. Most inflows are short-term speculative ventures. Markets, especially, in commodities, show no upward growth, much to the chagrin of the free market technocrats. Industry and commerce are depressed as a result of the decline in consumer credit, employment and public spending induced by ‘the managers’ austerity policies.

Even as the US and Europe embrace free market austerity, it evokes a continent wide revolt. Nevertheless Latin America’s wave of vassal regimes, remain deeply embedded in decimating the welfare state and pillaging public treasuries led by a narrow elite of bankers and serial swindlers.

Conclusion

As Washington and the prostitute press hail their ‘new managers’ in Latin America, the celebration is abruptly giving way to mass rage over corruption and demands for a shift to the political left.

In Brazil, “President” Temer rushes to implement big business measures, as his time in office is limited to weeks not months. His time out of jail is nearing a deadline. His cabinet of ‘technocrats’ prepare their luggage to follow.

Maurico Macri may survive a wave of strikes and protests and finish the year in office. But the plunging economy and pillage of the treasury is leading business to bankruptcy, the middle class to empty bank accounts and the dispossessed to spontaneous mass upheavals.

Washington’s new managers in Latin America cannot cope with an unruly citizenry and a failing free market economy.

Coups have been tried and work for grabbing power but do not establish effective rulership. Political shifts to the right are gyrating out of Washington’s orbit and find no new counter-balance in the break-up of the European Union.

Vassal capitalist takeovers in Latin America generated publicist anesthesia and Wall Street euphoria; only to be rudely shocked to reality by economic pathologies.

Washington and Wall Street and their Latin America managers sought a false reality of unrestrained profits and pillaged wealth. The reality principle now forces them to recognize that their failures are inducing rage today and uprisings tomorrow.

July 8, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Argentina Expels TeleSUR and RT: Double Standards When it Comes to Press Freedom

By Zachary Cohen | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | June 17, 2016

On June 8, the Argentine government notified the Latin American television network teleSUR that their services would be shut off in the country within 15 days.[1] TeleSUR, the brainchild of Hugo Chávez, is an alternative left-wing news organization founded through the cooperation of seven left leaning Latin American governments including Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba. It gives a voice to the popular sectors of the hemisphere, covering news that often calls into question some of the right-wing biases of the hegemonic news media and provides information which promotes regional integration in Latin America. Although Argentina cited a “[renewal of] program listings,” as the reason for teleSUR’s dismissal, Patricia Villegas, the president of teleSUR, pointed toward underlying reactions against the left-leaning network, decrying the notice as “censura” (censure).[2][3] 

On June 10, the television station RT (also known as Russia Today) received a similar summons. The Russian channel, which has been operating in Argentina for the past two years since a deal was signed between the countries, was told that their suspension from broadcasting would take place in 60 days.[4] RT aims to provide an “international audience with a Russian viewpoint,” and just like teleSUR, emphasizes the importance of alternative, non-hegemonic perspectives.[5]

The blatant censorship of these two opposition voices in Argentina is an alarming violation of hemispheric press freedom, and points to a larger issue at hand: the immense double standards of the mainstream media in its coverage, or rather non-coverage, of this matter. The removal of teleSUR and RT from the Argentine media scene has not elicited much media attention from corporate media news outlets, though the story would most likely be breaking news and inspire outrage were it occurring in a country with a progressive government.

Comprehensive Policy Changes in Argentina

On December 10, 2015, Argentine President Mauricio Macri was sworn in to office, replacing progressive leaning President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.[6] Macri’s presidency represents a drastic shift for the country across the board. Within the past six months, Macri has reversed a multitude of Kirchner’s policies and has begun to further advance neoliberal free market policies through the removal of currency controls and the promotion of proposals regarding free trade.[7] In addition to economic changes, Macri’s distinct foreign policy goals have been described by teleSUR as a “180-degree turn from previous administrations.”[8] He has made efforts to improve relations with the United States, while distancing Argentina from the ledger of left and left-leaning governments of Latin America. After his state visit this past March, President Obama noted that Macri’s Argentina has become a “key ally” to the United States, in stark contrast to the rather hostile bilateral relations held during the Kirchner administration.[9] [10]

President Macri’s expulsion of teleSUR represents the continuation of a longer narrative. When Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez celebrated the launch of the Venesat-1 satellite in 2005, he was taking a stand against traditional media, reflecting his commitment to battling U.S. hegemony and building a more Bolivarian and integrated Latin America.[11] At its launch, Argentina was committed to the cause of independence and integration, and was teleSUR’s second largest TV sponsor, with a 20 percent stake in the enterprise; Venezuela remains the largest shareholder, at 51 percent.[12] [13] However, in March, Macri pulled Argentine funding from teleSUR.[14] According to Argentina’s Director of Communications Hermann Lombardi, the decision to withdraw was based on the fact that Argentina’s government was “prohibited from sharing their view.”[15] Although the removal of funding on the basis of distinct ideological differences is understandable, it is inexcusable to remove teleSUR from the mix of television networks operating in the country. Regardless of teleSUR’s association with progressive governments, it should not be automatically excluded from the households of millions simply because of an ideological disagreement between the government and the media markets.

Double Standards in the Media

The troubling double standard of corporate media is explicitly evident in this issue and has serious implications for the role of the United States in Latin America. Mainstream media jumps on the chance to criticize the “Pink Tide” nations, with major critiques often levied toward Venezuela in regards to their shortcomings in the area of press freedoms. These criticisms were exceptionally prominent in 2007, after President Chávez decided not to renew the license for RCTV after they vocally supported the coup against him. [16] [17] For his actions, Chávez was condemned by the United States and the European Union, and received vast media attention. Yet, in the broader picture, the judgments regarding Venezuela’s press freedoms are often exaggerated and simplified, lacking the complexities of a more realistic portrayal of the country’s situation.[18] El Nacional, one of Venezuela’s largest newspapers, continues to provide the opposition viewpoint to President Nicolás Maduro, with open calls for regime change published and printed.[19] Additionally, news station Globovisión has consistently held an independent voice, often speaking out against the government.[20] Nonetheless, the level of disdain that Maduro’s regime receives by the mainstream media, including by papers such as The New York Times, reflects a distinct bias against the left-wing government in discussions on the subject of press freedoms.[21]

The situation in Argentina is very different today from Venezuela in regards to freedom of the press. Through his censure of teleSUR, Macri has preemptively silenced the most vigorous reporting on the human cost of his economic adjustment policies and explicitly revealed his willingness to expel unwanted sources of media to push his own narrative. Yet, there has been little to no international reaction. In fact, at the time of this article’s publication, teleSUR and RT themselves are among the few major news organizations to have written any extensive coverage of the stories since they broke last week. Through its silence, the mainstream media is complicit in Macri’s censure of expression, all while continuing to emphasize and exaggerate Maduro’s actions.

Macri’s newfound friendship with the United States, alongside the willful negligence of issues surrounding censorship in the mainstream media, cannot be considered a coincidence. His commitment to resolving Argentina’s economic woes through U.S.-friendly policies, in addition to his overall right-wing realignment, have fostered a swift transition of Argentina’s international image. Moreover, teleSUR and RT are associated with countries in direct competition, ideologically and economically, with Washington. By undermining the influence of media which stem from left leaning Latin America and anti-U.S. Russia, Macri effectively expands the capacity of anti-left, pro-U.S. media to influence his country. With this purposeful rebranding in mind, it is believable that media in the United States would begin to emphasize the more favorable face of Argentina, while disregarding issues such as censorship.

One of the pillars of COHA’s philosophy is the support of democratic values in their fullest form, which includes supporting freedom of the press. In any country, it is imperative to maintain a diverse set of viewpoints, and for different perspectives to be both treated with dignity and challenged without any fear of suppression. To be complicit in the violation of such freedoms is tantamount to the acceptance of the violations themselves, and COHA will not be silent while others find it appropriate to remain so. COHA urges the Argentine government to reconsider its removal of teleSUR and RT, and to invite, rather than suppress, debate over the economic, political, and social outcomes of the change of course being implemented by the Macri administration.

[1] “Macri Gov’t toTake teleSUR off Argentine TV service in 15 days,” teleSUR, June 8, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Macri-Govt-to-Take-teleSUR-off-Argentine-TV-Service-in-15-Days-20160608-0034.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Patricia Villegas, Twitter, June 8, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, https://twitter.com/pvillegas_tlSUR/status/740569267536596993.

[4] “Argentina to suspend RT from national broadcasting,” RT, June 11, 2016, accessed June 13, 2016. https://www.rt.com/news/346172-argentina-suspends-rt-television/.

[5] “About Us,” RT, accessed June 14, 2016, https://www.rt.com/about-us/.

[6] Ignacio de Reyes, “Change ahead: Mauricio Macri’s visión for Argentina,” BBC, December 10, 2015, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-34899223.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Is Argentina Turning into a US Proxy in South America?” teleSUR, June 1, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Is-Argentina-Turning-into-a-US-Proxy-in-South-America-20160601-0028.html.

[9] Martin Torino, “Obama abrió la puerta a Macri para un Tratado de Libre Comercio con Argentina,” Cronista.com, March 16, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.cronista.com/economiapolitica/Obama-abrio-la-puerta-a-Macri-para-un-Tratado-de-Libre-Comercio-con-Argentina-20160324-0086.html.

[10] Andrew Trotman, “Argentina files legal proceedings with UN against Obama government,” The Telegraph, August 7, 2014, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/11019875/Argentina-files-legal-proceedings-with-UN-against-Obama-government.html.

[11] https://books.google.com/books?id=d02Do0qmJrMC&dq=telesur+chavez+satellite&source=gbs_navlinks_s

[12] “Argentina pulls out of leftist TV network Telesur,” The Guardian, March 28, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/28/argentina-telesur-tv-network-venezuela-hugo-chavez.

[13] “New Latin American Televison Network Telesur Officially Launched,” Democracy NOW,  July 26, 2005, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.democracynow.org/2005/7/26/new_latin_american_television_network_telesur.

[14] “Argentina pulls out of leftist TV network Telesur.”

[15] Ibid.

[16] “Chávez Shuts Down Venezuelan TV Station as Supporters, Opponents Rally: A Debate on the Closing of RCTV,” Democracy NOW, May 31, 2007, accessed June 13, 2016, http://www.democracynow.org/2007/5/31/chavez_shuts_down_venezuelan_tv_station.

[17] Roy Carroll, “Chávez silences critical TV station – and robs the people of their soaps,” The Guardian, May 23, 2007, accessed June 13, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/media/2007/may/23/venezuela.broadcasting

[18] Joe Emersberger, “Macri Tilts Argentina’s Media Landscape in his Favor,” teleSUR, April 3, 2016, accessed June 14, 2016, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Macri-Tilts-Argentinas-Media-Landscape-in-his-Favor-20160403-0033.html

[19] John Otis, “Last critic standing,” Committee to Protect Journalists, February 22, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, https://cpj.org/blog/2016/02/last-critic-standing-how-el-nacional-defies-challe.php.

[20] https://cpj.org/blog/2016/03/after-venezuelan-elections-globovision-shows-more-.php.

[21] Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, “Stealth Censorship in Venezuela,” The New York Times, August 6, 2016, accessed June 10, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/opinion/daniel-lansberg-rodriguez-stealth-censorship-in-venezuela.html.

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Argentine President Macri Wants Amnesty for Tax Dodgers, Like Himself

teleSUR | May 28, 2016

President Mauricio Macri will propose an amnesty law for those who bring back to Argentina any undeclared funds that were kept in overseas accounts, in order to settle debts with state pensioners.

“Argentines have billions of pesos overseas because they didn’t trust in the state. We need to tell them to join us, to be part of our new era. We invite them to wipe the fiscal slate clean,” said Macri.

President Macri said he will present the bill to Congress with three options. First, people can pay a tax of 5 percent for up to US$56,000 and 10 percent above that until Jan. 1, 2017. Second, they can convert their funds to bonds in the country. The last option, they can place the money in long-term investment in Argentina.

“Last time we had this process, which was easier, the country collected only $670 million dollars. Therefore, this law has nothing to do with the economy, but that there is dirty money associated with top officials in the government that needs to be cleaned,” said lawmaker Claudio Lozano.

Macri admitted this week that he has US$18 million in tax havens after he repeatedly denied earlier allegations arising from being named in the Panama Papers. He also failed to declare his high-level positions in two offshore companies in Panama in his mandatory declaration at the beginning of his term.

Macri’s fortune went from USD$52 million in December 2015 to USD$110 million in May 2016.

On the other hand, austerity and neoliberal policies rolled out since Macri took power continue to hit the country, such as price hikes in public services, transportation, gas and electricity. The country also holds its highest inflation rate since 2002.

RELATED:

Macri Backs Tax Breaks for the Rich, Layoffs for the Poor

Panama Papers: Macri Implicated in Offshore Tax Haven Scandal

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Nobel Laureate: “Plan Condor Should Never Have Happened”

21_golpe_de_banzer

In Bolivia, a CIA-backed military coup led to the overthrow of leftist President Juan Torres. Following the coup, dictator Hugo Banzer had over 2,000 political opponents arrested without trial, tortured, raped and executed.

teleSUR | May 28, 2016

Adolfo Perez Esquivel voiced his opposition to celebrations over the conviction of 15 military officials in Argentina. In his view, there is nothing to celebrate.

Perez Esquivel, recipient of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize, said Friday that Plan Condor was a conspiracy to kill leftist movements in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In his view, there is no reason to celebrate the conviction of those who participated in Plan Condor in Argentina. An Argentine court found 15 military officials guilty Friday.

“Plan Condor should never have happened,” the Argentine Nobel laureate and human rights defender wrote on the social network Twitter.

5_nunca-mas

Photographs of the disappeared in Argentina. Photo:Colección AGRA, Archivo Memoria Activa

After the sentencing of several of the military officials, Chilean journalist and diplomat Odette Magnet said “justice was achieved, but we need the truth,” referring to her sister Maria Cecilia Magnet who was disappeared during the dictatorship in the country.

The journalist explained that for 40 years she has played an active role in seeking the truth about repression during the military dictatorships in Latin America.

“I want to know where they are, where (the death squads) threw them, where all the victims of this macabre plan are,” Magnet said. Officials from the dictatorships across Latin America would often throw victims out of helicopters and airplanes into the ocean.

“Nobody knows what really happened to our people, we have no information because the murderers do not speak, they will not talk and that is very frustrating because we have the facts,” Magnet concluded.

RELATED:

Argentine Military Officials Guilty for Plan Condor Crimes

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fact-checking the Heralded “End of the Latin American Left”

By Peter Bolton | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | May 27, 2016

Recent political developments across the region have prompted celebratory proclamations in the mainstream Western press that Latin America’s decades-long dominance by left-leaning governments is reaching its terminal stages. The landslide victory of the Venezuelan opposition in last December’s legislative elections, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and the triumph of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election do indeed seem to point to a region-wide decline in the fortunes of the parties of the Pink Tide. But as is so often the case in the mainstream media, commentators have been too quick to make current events fit neatly into overarching seismic shifts.  The cursory and often incomplete news reports on which they are based simply do not provide sufficient support for such catchall explanations. While scholars have naturally initiated a more nuanced and detailed debate to consider whether the region is indeed witnessing the end of a progressive cycle, press analyses have struck a premature and in many cases triumphalist tone by declaring the collapse of the Latin American left both imminent and beyond serious doubt.

In reality, it is the exact opposite that is beyond serious doubt: it is far too early to write off the future of the left in Latin America. Moreover, more research is needed to understand the dynamics of these movements and how things might play out in the coming months and years. But what is most disconcerting about these knee-jerk press responses is that the people making them seem to not even have a strong grasp of the basic facts surrounding the political developments on which they base their claims, let alone of the nuance needed to develop a sophisticated analysis. In a survey of the media declarations of the purportedly imminent collapse of the Latin American left, COHA has found a shocking collection of glaring and demonstrably false statements over basic matters of fact that reveal the profoundly slipshod nature of their research.

The salience of these findings can hardly be overstated: if journalists in the mainstream media cannot even get basic facts correct, they can hardly be trusted to provide a meaningful analysis of the larger picture.

Jackson Diehl

As predictable as the jeers from the DC commentariat were, perhaps the one figure within the Beltway punditry class who could have been most counted on to react gloatingly to the recent setbacks of leftist governments in Latin America was The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. Having been a reliable war hawk and right-wing militarist at the Post’s op-ed section since the late 1970s, Diehl was quick to turn his wrath on Pink Tide leaders and their supposedly grave threat to U.S. national security interests. In 2010 he repeated American Enterprise Institute scholar Roger Noriega’s accusation that then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was collaborating with Iran in the development of nuclear capabilities.[1] In 2013 he accused the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador of “gutting democratic institutions in their countries,” and described Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as “Latin America’s chief caudillo and Yanqui-baiter.”[2]

His characterization of the latest political developments, inexplicably posted at the Charleston-based Post and Courier rather than his home publication, fits seamlessly with this record of hysterical hyperbole and dubious accuracy. In the article’s first sentence he triumphantly announces: “The encouraging news from Latin America is that the leftist populists who for 15 years undermined the region’s democratic institutions and wrecked its economies are being pushed out — not by coups and juntas, but by democratic and constitutional means.”[3] From this outrageously loaded misrepresentation he quickly moves on to outright falsehoods by claiming that Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was “vanquished in a presidential election.”[4] From a simple Google search one can learn that she was in fact not even a candidate in last year’s presidential election.[5] Apparently Diehl cannot even get past his article’s second sentence without revealing his stupefying ignorance of the most basic of facts.

Aside from blatant inaccuracies, he also makes the remarkable claim that “most of the Western hemisphere is studiously ignoring this meltdown,” despite the fact that Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has been calling for months to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela.[6] If he is referring not to the OAS but rather to the leaders of the region’s governments, then he is simply confusing their indifference for Washington’s isolation in its condemnations of the Maduro government. Just as the United States was completely isolated in its refusal to recognize Maduro’s election victory in 2013, so it has been alone in calling for sanctions, for which it has lobbied on the basis of largely spurious allegations of human rights violations.

To round out his diatribe, Diehl then describes the “obstacles” to getting a recall referendum to remove President Maduro as “comically steep,” despite the fact that all of the figures he cites regarding the required numbers of petition signatures (which opposition activists need to gather to trigger the recall vote) are calculated from terms set out in Venezuela’s Constitution. By representing the recall referendum as offering the “slim remaining hopes for a democratic solution,” he implies that some sort of extra-democratic methods might be necessary, and presumably also justified.[7] Keep in mind that the provision for a recall referendum to remove a sitting president is a democratic mechanism that scarcely exists in any constitution besides Venezuela’s.

Rafael Ruiz Velasco

In an article published at the PanAm Post, Rafael Ruiz Velasco is just as hasty in his passage of judgment on the fate of Latin America’s left. He announces confidently that “the results are clear: the bet on socialism in Latin America has failed.”[8] But like Diehl, Velasco makes at least one glaring factual error that undermines his already highly suspect piece. He says of Brazil: “The Olympics will be held with a politically defeated Dilma Rousseff out of office, as she faces impeachment on corruption charges.”[9] The truth of the matter is that Rousseff is in fact one of the few leading Brazilian politicians not to be facing corruption charges.[10] Her impeachment was rather premised on vague accusations of fiscal mismanagement and budgetary irregularities[11]—hardly the high crimes that under normal circumstances would merit removal from office. Her replacement Michel Temer, on the other hand, does presently stand accused of corruption, and not over minor allegations either. In addition to being implicated in the country’s ongoing Petrobras scandal, he also stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections[12]; the exact kinds of things, ironically, that would normally be legitimate grounds for impeachment.

Either Velasco is conveniently ignoring these facts, or else just has a very weak understanding of the details of what is taking place in Brazilian politics. Indeed, much else in his article makes one wonder whether he is engaging in willful misrepresentation or is just plain clueless. To give just one example, Velasco describes Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Ignácio da Silva, as Brazil’s “figureheads of failure,” in spite of the four electoral victories they have won between them. Leveling this smear against da Silva, whose widespread popularity led to him being affectionately known as Lula, is particularly absurd given that he won both of his presidential election victories with over 60 percent of the vote and left office with 80 percent approval ratings.[13]

Antonio Sampaio

In an article for Foreign Policy magazine, provocatively titled “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Antonio Sampaio pulls no punches in his characterization of Rousseff’s impeachment, claiming that it “marks the final fall from grace not only of the president but also of her ruling Workers’ Party, which has run the country for 13 years.”[14] But one can only feel confounded when Sampaio concedes further down the article that “supporters of the government are right to point out that Rousseff herself is one of the few high-profile political figures who has not been accused of abusing her office for personal enrichment. (Her impeachment is related to alleged manipulation of public accounts to disguise a deficit).”[15] This stands in blatant contradiction to how he begins the article, with the claim that “the biggest corruption scandal in national history is revealing the extent to which Rousseff and her allies actively contributed to the rot of Brazil’s democratic institutions.”[16] It is simply unfathomable how he can lay the blame for the damage done to Brazil’s institutions by this scandal at the feet of Dilma Rousseff when he concedes in the same article that her impeachment has nothing to do with corruption. But in the world of Western press coverage of Latin America, this kind Orwellian doublethink does not seem to matter even when such contradictory statements are being made in the very same article.

Chicago Tribune/Orlando Sentinel

In a “Guest Editorial” in the Orlando Sentinel, the editors of the Chicago Tribune (I’m confused too) argue that the next U.S. president “will need to engage Latin America with a lot more purpose and resolve,” or else “Russia, Iran and China will.”[17] To their credit, they do concede that the recent setbacks of leftist leaders “do not necessarily mean a complete, sweeping repudiation of leftist populism,” since “the gap between the impoverished masses and the few wealthy elite still defines life for much if not all of the continent.” But rather than providing legitimate justifications for progressive policies, this grinding poverty and gross inequality apparently makes these countries “susceptible” to what they term “leftist agendas.”

But in addition to this patronizing jeer, the Tribune editors also make the exact same factual error as Jackson Diehl by claiming that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner “lost her re-election bid to Argentine center-right leader Mauricio Macri last fall.”[18] At the risk of repeating it ad nauseam, Kirchner did not stand in the election, and, moreover, was not even able to since the Argentine Constitution sets a limit of two consecutive presidential terms. Granted, her ruling Justicialist Party lost control of the executive to Macri’s rival Republican Proposal party, but the candidate for the Justicialists was Daniel Scioli[19] (a former vice-president during the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner). To those who might try to dismiss this correction as mere nitpicking, imagine what people in the United States would have thought if a foreign newspaper had reported in November 2008 that U.S. President George W. Bush had lost his re-election bid to Barack Obama. Such shoddy journalism would have surely delivered an instantly fatal blow to the publication’s credibility. But when a U.S. publication demonstrates an exactly analogous ignorance of basic facts about Latin America, its unfounded pronouncements and flimsy arguments still get taken seriously.

Further revealing their risible political illiteracy, the Tribune editors claim that the setbacks for the Latin American left have “all happened with virtually no coddling or stoking from the U.S.”[20] Either the authors have never read anything about the United States’ covert funding of Venezuelan opposition candidates and its threats of sanctions against the Maduro government, the meetings between major regional right-wing figures and allies in the U.S. Congress,[21] and the United States’ use of international organizations to weaken left-leaning governments, or else they are being deliberately duplicitous (and presumably take their readers for a bunch of idiots to boot). The Tribune editors conclude with the unbelievably sweeping statement that the region’s populations are “fed up with failed leftist policies.”[22]

No Alternative?

This last statement neatly sums up the central message that these articles wish to communicate: that any policies that don’t fit the Anglo-American model of unfettered neoliberal capitalism “don’t work” and that though people might at first naively support them, they end up getting disillusioned and begrudgingly come to the realization that neoliberalism is the only viable economic system after all. Though they might not spell it out quite so obligingly, the message is essentially a repetition of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that “there is no alternative” to free markets, free trade, and capitalist globalization. The presentation of the recent setbacks of Latin American left governments as confirmation of this seems to be a deliberate jibe directed at the many people the world over who hold up Latin America as humanity’s beacon of hope for providing a more just, generous, and sustainable way of life.

But though these setbacks of the Pink Tide should not be reflexively explained away and the diminishment in popular support for its parties should not be discounted, there are important distinctions and qualifiers that cast doubt on such a rash declaration of victory for neoliberal orthodoxy. Lest we forget, it was less than a decade ago that an economic crash plunged world economies into disarray and prompted no less a figure than Alan Greenspan to admit that free market ideology is flawed.[23]

First, it is important to make the distinction between a decline in support for the Pink Tide’s parties and support for their policies. Research has suggested that voting publics in Latin America have not become any less supportive of such policies, but rather are becoming disaffected with how they are being administered by those in charge. A poll by Poliarquía in the run up to the 2015 Argentine presidential election, for instance, found that 50 percent of respondents were in favor not of a return to the policies of the pre-Kirchner years, but rather “continuity with change.”[24] As Raanan Rein, a professor of Latin American and Spanish history at Tel Aviv University, put it: “The left lost more than the right won.”[25] He added: “It wasn’t that Macri became so popular, it was simply that his predecessors, the Kirchners, destroyed Peronism.”[26] In other words, what is needed is not a relapse back to tooth and nail neoliberalism, but rather a new and more effective leadership to build on the alternatives that were first attempted by the leftist old guard. The many achievements that resulted from these policies include: expanded access to public services such as healthcare[27] and education;[28] radically reduced poverty[29] and child malnutrition;[30] widespread construction of new homes for those in need;[31] and a significant pushback against the brutal realities of income and wealth inequality[32] that have long plagued the region. Many of these policies’ merits have been recognized by international organizations including the United Nations,[33] the Carter Center,[34] and even the World Bank.[35] Perhaps the most revolutionary of all the changes implemented by the Pink Tide governments were the drafting of new constitutions that guarantee social, political and economic rights to all citizens,[36] and also include unprecedented protections for marginalized groups such as women[37] and indigenous people,[38] and even for nature.[39]

To be sure, legitimate feelings of betrayal exist throughout the region and it is important to hold progressive governments accountable for their share of errors in confronting the economic downturn or failing to prepare for a rainy day. But though many voters might express their anger at the governing Pink Tide parties for their mistakes and lack of foresight by abstaining or even casting a protest vote for the right-wing opposition, this does not indicate a wholehearted endorsement of these parties’ proposals, far less a desire for a return to neoliberalism and the structural adjustment era of the 1980s and 1990s.

Of course, there is also the natural and universal tendency in all societies for people to gradually tire of their governments (regardless of success or failure), to take for granted the gains that were made, and to forget the bad aspects of what came before. All governments, like all human enterprises generally, are deeply imperfect and are not, in Latin America least of all, immune from risks of corruption and other malign influences. But these negative factors are hardly unique to governments of the left. After all, plenty of governments of the right throughout the region have been not just corrupt, but in some cases even murderous. From the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in which thousands of people were “disappeared”[40] to the torture and extrajudicial executions that took place during Venezuela’s Andres Perez administration,[41] such governments hardly compare favorably to those of the Pink Tide.

Secondly, it is important to make a distinction between left-leaning governments and the social movements and popular sectors that thrust them into power. The continued energy of these movements demonstrates that their drive to resist neoliberalism and fight for social change is as fierce as ever. Indeed, one of the most basic mistakes of these shallow op-ed columns is their failure to consider, let alone grasp, the workings of the internal dynamics of these movements and their relationships with their national governments. If anything, the fall in support for Chavismo in Venezuela among some of its traditional base has more to do with the failure of the Maduro government to maintain its engagement with the popular sectors rather than a newfound enthusiasm on their part for a return to neoliberalism and a repeat of so-called structural adjustment.

Thirdly, it is important to remember that the parties that have opposed the Pink Tide governments have been pressed to the left and have, at least publicly, adopted much of the language and ideas of their political adversaries. During the 2012 and 2013 presidential elections in Venezuela, for instance, opposition candidate Henrique Caprilles Radonski presented himself as a social democrat and the standard-bearer of the moderate left ideas of Brazilian President Luiz Ignácio da Silva[42] (who incidentally endorsed the Chavista candidate[43] in both cases[44]). His campaign also used some of the enduring symbols of Chavismo, calling itself the “Bolivarian Command” and promising to not discontinue the social missions, but rather make them more efficient and less ideological. Though leaked documents subsequently revealed his plan was to make a swift about-face after the election and impose a brutal neoliberal agenda once in office,[45] Caprilles at least understood that the immense popularity of then-President Chavez’s policies meant that he had to publicly present himself as a center-left progressive in order to stand a chance of winning. The Venezuelan opposition has also moved to the left on social issues and even fielded three LGBT candidates in the 2015 December legislative elections.[46] Likewise, Mauricio Macri presented himself during the presidential campaign in Argentina as a pragmatist and moderate technocrat rather than a free market absolutist.[47] As was the case with Caprilles, there is good reason to think such pronouncements were insincere (he has already rekindled Argentina’s relationship with Wall Street[48] and filled his cabinet with bankers[49]), but it at least demonstrates that the political center of gravity amongst Latin American publics is way to the left of the traditional forces of the right.

Fourth, we should not forget that circumstantial factors have created problems for left-leaning governments that are not of their own making. Global drops in commodity prices have made life difficult for all leaders in a region that has long been heavily based on extractivism. Whether it be oil in Venezuela, copper and zinc in Bolivia, or soybeans in Argentina, global downturns have caused problems for these governments which would have been just as pronounced had their right-wing rivals been in power instead. Dependence on exports of raw materials long predates the Pink Tide and moving out of this legacy would have been a challenge for any government.

Fifth, there is a tendency to characterize the policies of Pink Tide governments as “unsustainable.” The unsustainability argument appeals to basic intuition but is based on a false analogy—that a country’s financial situation is akin to a household budget. One could just as easily point out that with the resource wealth and technological sophistication of today’s world, there is clearly the means to provide for every person on planet earth many times over. That we are not doing so is not a failure of the left, but rather of capitalism and explicable largely in terms of the lasting legacy of colonialism and its lingering power structures. These pressures bear particularly heavily on Latin America given its long history of colonial oppression, not to mention its proximity to the major force in the world that has worked to maintain this status quo and long treated the region as its “backyard.”

Finally, therefore, it is important to consider the superpower’s lasting impact on the region. Meddling by the region’s hegemon and its internal allies has consistently caused damage to Pink Tide governments and their efforts at social reform. The United States’ aggressive stance against them is understandable given the threat they pose to its hemispheric dominance and the preeminence of its favored international organizations. Pink Tide governments have established new international bodies to realize the vision of the decades-long struggle for regional integration and provide a buffer against U.S. imperialism. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) are attempts to transcend Washington’s “free” trade orthodoxies and forge an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS). The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was founded to mediate regional conflicts and could in the future provide a framework for military cooperation or freedom of movement for citizens of member nations. The monetary fund BancoSur, though still in its nascent stages, is hoped to provide an alternative source of lending free from the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. Taken together, these organizations have provided a hope that international relations can in the future be based more on international cooperation, rather than competition, and mutual, rather than solely national, interests. This phenomenon is essentially the expression in the international realm of what Roger Harris of the Taskforce on the Americas has described as “the threat of a good example.”[50]

Though it does not completely explain away the failures on the part of progressive governments, there has nonetheless been a clear pattern in terms of the treatment they have received from United States: the more successful Pink Tide governments have become at helping their citizenry and providing an alternative to Anglo-American neoliberalism, the greater the incentive has grown to crush this threat. When the sabotage is successful it provides a double benefit for the United States and its internal allies: in addition to making a different path unviable it also makes these policies appear as intrinsically unworkable, and thereby “proving” that the neoliberal status quo is the only way forward.

Clearly this ghost of Thatcher haunts the minds of mainstream media commentators, explaining both their lazy treatment of the facts and dogmatic commitment to making all news events fit the neoliberal agenda. What is truly important, therefore, is not so much the immediate electoral fortunes of the Pink Tide governments, but rather the efforts to defend the spirit of the movements on which they are based and the intellectual legacy of their principles. A heavy burden lies on those of us who strive to counter the new neoliberal offensive and the mendacity of its propaganda foot soldiers.

[1] Jackson Diehl, “Is Hugo Chavez a real threat to the U.S.?,” The Washington Post, September 27, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/26/AR2010092603334.html

[2] Jackson Diehl, “Jackson Diehl: Will the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights be gutted?,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2013. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-will-the-inter-american-commission-on-human-rights-be-gutted/2013/03/03/c018f9a6-81d0-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html

[3] Jackson Diehl, “Stop ignoring the implosion in Venezuela,” The Post and Courier, May 4, 2016. http://www.postandcourier.com/20160504/160509752/stop-ignoring-the-implosion-in-venezuela

[4] Ibid.

[5] Simon Romero and Jonathan Gilbert, “Election Will End Kirchner’s Presidency, Not Her Hold on Argentina,” The New York Times, October 24, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/world/americas/election-will-end-kirchners-presidency-not-her-hold-on-argentina.html

[6] http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11815

[7] Ibid.

[8] Rafael Ruiz Velasco, “The Jury Is In: Latin America’s 21st Century Socialism Has Failed,” The PanAm Post, May 19, 2016. https://panampost.com/rafael-ruiz-velasco/2016/05/19/21st-century-socialism-has-failed/

[9] Ibid.

[10] Marina Koren, “Brazil’s Impeachment Battle,” The Atlantic, April 17, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/04/brazil-impeachment-dilma-rousseff/478632/

[11] Matt Sandy, “Brazil’s Senate Votes to Impeach President Dilma Rousseff: What Happens Now?,” Time magazine, May 12, 2016. http://time.com/4327408/brazil-senate-dilma-rousseff-suspended/

[12] “Brazil President Corruption Scandal,” Open Source Investigations. http://www.opensourceinvestigations.com/corruption/petrobras-scandal-catching-up-to-brazil-president/

[13] Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead

[14] Antonio Sampaio, “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Foreign Policy, May 13, 2016. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/13/how-brazils-left-destroyed-itself-dilma-rousseff-impeachment/

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html

[18] Ibid.

[19] Jonathan Watts and Uki Goñi, “Argentina shifts to the right after Mauricio Macri wins presidential runoff,” The Guardian, November 23, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/22/argentina-election-exit-polls-buenos-aires-mauricio-macri

[20] “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html

[21] Rachael Boothroyd, “US Republican Senator Meets with Venezuelan Opposition in Caracas,” Venezuela Analysis, July 1, 2015. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11432

[22] “As ‘pink tide’ ebbs, U.S. must engage: Guest Editorial,” Orlando Sentinel, May 17, 2016. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-ed-pink-tide-latin-america-20160516-story.html -america-20160516-story.html

[23] Brian Naylor, “Greenspan Admits Free Market Ideology Flawed,” NPR.org, October 24, 2008. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96070766

[24] Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2014/06/24/argentina-reduces-risk-and-improves-health

[28] Mark Weisbrot, “Why Ecuador Loves Rafael Correa,” The Guardian, February 15, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/rafael-correa-ecuador-elections

[29] http://cepr.net/documents/publications/weisbrot_revista_fall_2008.pdf

[30] James Suggett, “Venezuela Reduces Malnutrition in Children to 4%,” Venezuela Analysis, July 7, 2008. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/3626

[31] “Venezuelan Social Housing Project Delivers 700,000th Home,” TeleSur, April 19, 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuelan-Social-Housing-Project-Delivers-700000th-Home-20150419-0019.html

[32] “Venezuela, Uruguay Register Lowest Inequality in Latin America,” TeleSur, April 29, 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuela-Uruguay-Register-Lowest-Inequality-in-Latin-America-20150429-0006.html

[33] Antony Boadle, “Brazil’s Rousseff says extreme poverty almost eradicated,” Reuters, February 13, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-poverty-idUSBRE91I14F20130219

[34] http://www.cartercenter.org/countries/ecuador-health.html

[35] http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2014/06/24/argentina-reduces-risk-and-improves-health; http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/venezuela/overview

[36] Sarah Wagner, “Women and Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution,” Venezuela Analysis, January 15, 2005. http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/877

[37] Michael Fox, “Women and Chavismo: An Interview with Yanahir Reyes,” NACLA. https://nacla.org/article/women-and-chavismo-interview-yanahir-reyes

[38] http://acdivoca.org/our-programs/success-story/new-bolivian-constitution-guarantees-more-rights-indigenous-people

[39] http://therightsofnature.org/ecuador-rights/

[40] “Chile recognises 9,800 more victims of Pinochet’s rule,” BBC News, August 18, 2011. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-14584095

[41] https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/Venez93O.pdf p. 8

[42] “Profile: Henrique Capriles,” BBC News, October 3, 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-16811723

[43] http://www.correodelorinoco.gob.ve/nacionales/lula-da-silva-respalda-reeleccion-presidente-hugo-chavez/

[44] Tamara Pearson, “Ex Brazilian President Lula Supports Venezuela’s Maduro,” Venezuela Analysis, April 3, 2013. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/8476

[45] Jody McIntyre, “Who is Henrique Capriles Radonski?,” New Internationalist. https://newint.org/blog/2012/09/25/venezuela-elections-capriles-chavez/

[46] Corina Pons, “Venezuela’s first transgender candidate to run for Congress,” Reuters, August 8, 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-venezuela-politics-idUKKCN0QC25P20150808

[47] Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead

[48] Benedict Mander, “Argentina rekindles its relationship with Wall Street,” The Financial Times, May 12, 2016. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/6aeb9ae2-17aa-11e6-b8d5-4c1fcdbe169f.html

[49] Astrid Prange, “Macri to take Argentina in a new, neoliberal direction,” Deutsche Welle, December 6, 2015. http://www.dw.com/en/macri-to-take-argentina-in-a-new-neoliberal-direction/a-18898041

[50] Roger Harris, “Venezuela: Supporting A Once and Future Revolution,” Counterpunch, June 26, 2013. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/26/venezuela-supporting-a-once-and-future-revolution/

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