In a historic address on December 17, 2014 on “Cuba policy changes” President Barack Obama declared, “our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas.” This “renewed leadership,” in our view, seeks to gradually undermine socialism in Cuba, check waning U.S. influence in the region, and inhibit a growing continental Bolivarian movement towards Latin American liberation, integration, and sovereignty. To be sure, normalization of relations with Cuba and the release of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero were long overdue, and the reunification of Alan Gross with his family was an important and welcome gesture. The rapprochement between the United States and Cuba and the simultaneous imposition of a new round of sanctions by the U.S. against Venezuela, however, do not signal a change in overall U.S. strategy but only a change in tactics. As President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro remarked in a letter to President Raul Castro “there is still a long road to travel in order to arrive at the point that Washington recognizes we are no longer its back yard…” (December 20, 2014).
From Embargo to Deployment of U.S. Soft Power in Cuba
The Obama gambit arguably seeks to move Cuba as far as possible towards market oriented economic reforms, help build the political community of dissidents on the island, and improve U.S. standing in the region, and indeed in the world. In a Miami Herald op-ed piece (December 22, 2014), John Kerry (Secretary of State), Penny Pritzker (Secretary of Commerce) and Jacob J. Lew (Treasury Secretary) wrote that normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba will “increase the ability of Americans to provide business training and other support for Cuba’s nascent private sector” and that this will “put American businesses on a more equal footing.” Presumably the op-ed is referring to “equal footing” with other nations that have been doing business for years with Cuba despite the embargo. The essay also indicates that the U.S. will continue its “strong support for improved human-rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba” by “empowering civil society and supporting the freedom of individuals to exercise their freedoms of speech and assembly.” Such a version of “empowering civil society” is probably consistent with decades of U.S. clandestine attempts to subvert the Cuban government, documented by Jon Elliston in Psy War on Cuba: The declassified history of U.S. anti-Castro propaganda (Ocean Press: 1999). It is also in line with more recent efforts, through USAID funded social media (phony Cuban Twitter) and a four year project to promote “Cuban rap music” both of which ended in 2012, designed to build dissident movements inside Cuba. In December 2014, Matt Herrick, spokesman for USAID, defended the latter unsuccessful covert program saying, “It seemed like a good idea to support civil society” and that “it’s not something we are embarrassed about in any way.” Moreover, a fact sheet on normalization published by the U.S. Department of State mentions that funding for “democracy programming” will continue and that “our efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state” (December 17, 2014). The Cuban government, though, has a different take on the meaning of “independence of the Cuban people.” They emphasize “sovereign equality,” “national independence,” and “self determination.” In an address on normalization, Raul Castro insisted on maintaining Cuban sovereignty and stated “we have embarked on the task of updating our economic model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism” (December 17, 2014). Obviously the ideological differences between Washington and Havana will shape the course of economic and political engagement between these two nations in the months and years ahead.
Rapprochement Between the U.S. and U.S. Isolation in Latin America
Through normalization of relations with Cuba, the U.S. also seeks to end its increasing isolation in the region. Secretary of State John Kerry, in his Announcement of Cuba Policy Changes, remarked that “not only has this policy [embargo] failed to advance America’s goals, it has actually isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba” (December 17, 2014). In October 2014, the United Nations General Assembly voted against the U.S. Cuba embargo for the 23rd year in a row, with only the U.S. and Israel voting in favor. The inclusion of Cuba in the political and, to a certain degree, economic life of Latin America, has also been part of a larger expression of Latin American solidarity that clearly repudiates regional subordination to Washington. Since the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena (April 2012), the U.S. has been on very clear notice by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that there will be no seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama in April without Cuba, a condition to which Washington has ceded.
The flip side of Washington’s growing “isolation” has been the critically important regional diversification of diplomatic and commercial relations between Latin America and the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the construction of alternative development banks and currency reserves to gradually replace the historically onerous terms of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The financial powerhouse of the BRICS nations is China. Over the past year, China has sent high level delegations to visit CELAC nations and in some cases these meetings have resulted in significant commercial agreements. As a follow up, there will be a CELAC–China forum in Beijing in January 2015 whose main objective, reports Prensa Latina, “is exchange and dialogue in politics, trade, economy and culture.” These ties with BRICS and other nations are consistent with the Chavista goal that the Patria Grande ought to contribute to building a multi-polar world and resist subordination to any power block on the planet. By bringing a halt to its growing isolation, Washington would be in a better position to increase its participation in regional commerce. The terms of economic engagement with most of Latin America, however, will no longer be determined by a Washington consensus, but by a North—South consensus. The Obama gambit, though, appears to be trading one source of alienation (embargo against Cuba) for another (sanctions against Venezuela).
Obama’s Gambit: Pushing Back the Bolivarian Cause at its Front Line–Venezuela
The Obama administration’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, while a welcome change of course, can be seen as a modification in tactics to advance the neoliberal agenda as far as possible in Havana while ending a policy that only serves to further erode U.S. influence in the region. Such diplomacy is in line with what appears to be a major U.S. policy objective of ultimately rolling back the ‘pink tide’, that is, the establishment, by democratic procedures, of left and center left regimes in two thirds of Latin American nations. It is this tide that has achieved some measure of progress in liberating much of Latin America from the structural inequality, social antagonism, and subordination to transnational corporate interests intrinsic to neoliberal politics and economics. And it is the continental Bolivarian emphasis on independence, integration, and sovereignty that has fortified the social movements behind this tide.
The Obama gambit, from a hemispheric point of view, constitutes a tactical shift away from the failed U.S. attempt to isolate and bring the Cuban revolution to its knees through coercion, to an intensification of its fifteen year effort to isolate and promote regime change in Venezuela. The reason for this tactical shift is that Venezuela, as the front line in the struggle for the Bolivarian cause of an increasingly integrated and sovereign Latin America, has become the biggest obstacle to the restoration of U.S. hegemony and the rehabilitation of the neoliberal regime in the Americas.
If this interpretation of U.S. hemispheric policy is near the mark, Obama’s grand executive gesture towards Cuba is immediately related to the context of Washington’s unrelenting antagonism towards Chavismo and, in particular, to the latest imposition of sanctions against Caracas. The reason for this is quite transparent. It has been Venezuela, more than Cuba, during the past fifteen years, that has played the leading role in the change of the balance of forces in the region on the side of sovereignty for the peoples of the Americas, especially through its leadership role in ALBA, CELAC, UNASUR and MERCOSUR, associations that do not include the U.S. and Canada. Argentine sociologist Atilio Boron, in an interview with Katu Arkonada of Rebelión (June 24, 2014), points out, “It is no accident… that Venezuela in particular is in the cross hairs of the empire, and for this reason we must be clear that the battle of Venezuela is our Stalingrad. If Venezuela succumbs before the brutal counter offensive of the United States…the rest of the processes of change underway on the continent, whether very radical or very moderate, will end with the same fate.” The latest U.S. sanctions against Venezuela can be viewed as one component of this counter offensive. It is to a closer look at the sanctions bill, signed into law by the president on December 18, 2014, that we now turn.
The “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014” (S 2142) not only targets Venezuelan officials whom U.S. authorities accuse of being linked to human rights abuses by freezing their assets and revoking their travel visas (Sec. 5 (b) (1) (A) (B)), it also promises to step up U.S. political intervention in Venezuela by continuing “to support the development of democratic political processes and independent civil society in Venezuela” (section 4 (4)) and by reviewing the effectiveness of “broadcasting, information distribution, and circumvention technology distribution in Venezuela” (section 6). One of the instruments of this support for “democratic political processes” has been the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Sociologist Kim Scipes argues that, “the NED and its institutes are not active in Venezuela to help promote democracy, as they claim, but in fact, to act against popular democracy in an effort to restore the rule of the elite, top-down democracy” (February 28 – March 2, 2014). Independent journalist Garry Leech, in his article entitled “Agents of Destabilization: Washington Seeks Regime Change in Venezuela,” (March 4, 2014) examines Wikileaks cables that indicate similar efforts have been carried out in Venezuela by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) during the past decade. Hannah Dreier (July 18, 2014), reported that “the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy, a government-funded nonprofit organization, together budgeted about $7.6 million to support Venezuelan groups last year alone, according to public documents reviewed by AP.” The sanctions bill (S 2142), then, in light of these precedents, contains provisions that suggest an imminent escalation in the use of soft power to support the political opposition to Chavismo in Venezuela, though such funding has been banned by Caracas.
The current U.S. sanctions against Caracas are consistent with fifteen years of U.S. antagonism against the Bolivarian revolution. The measures send a clear signal of increased support for a Venezuelan political opposition that has suffered division and discord in the aftermath of their failed “salida ya” (exit now) strategy of the first quarter of 2014. The sanctions also undermine any near term movement towards normalization of relations between the U.S. and Venezuela. It is no surprise that provisions of the law that targets Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations have gotten some limited traction inside this South American nation, with the executive secretary of the Venezuelan opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Jesús Torrealba, openly supporting this measure. This is probably not going to get the MUD a lot of votes. According to a Hinterlaces poll taken in May, a majority of Venezuelans are opposed to U.S. sanctions. There has also been a swift repudiation of sanctions by the Maduro administration and the popular sectors. On December 15, 2014, in one of the largest and most enthusiastic gatherings of Chavistas in the streets of Caracas since the death of Hugo Chavez, marchers celebrated the fifteenth year anniversary of the passage by referendum of a new constitution (December 15, 1999) and vigorously protested against U.S. intervention in their country. Even dissident Chavistas appear to be toning down their rhetoric and circling the wagons in the face of Washington’s bid to assert “renewed leadership” in the region.
There is no doubt that the Maduro administration is under tremendous pressure, from left Chavistas as well as from the right wing opposition, to reform and improve public security and deal effectively with an economic crisis that is being exacerbated by falling petroleum prices. What the government of Venezuela calls an “economic war” against the country has domestic and well as international dimensions. Although there is no smoking gun at this time that exposes a conspiracy, some analysts interpret the recent fall in oil prices as part of a campaign to put severe economic pressure on Iran, Russia and Venezuela, countries whose fiscal soundness relies a great deal on petroleum revenues. For example, Venezuelan independent journalist, Jesus Silva R., in his essay entitled “The Government of Saudi Arabia is the Worst Commercial Enemy of Venezuela,” argues that the Saudis and Washington are complicit in the “economic strangulation, planned from the outside, against Venezuela” (December 22, 2014). Whatever the cause of falling petroleum prices and despite the domestic challenges facing Caracas, it will most probably be the Venezuelan electorate that decides, through upcoming legislative elections, whether to give Chavismo a vote of confidence, not outside intervention or a fresh round of guarimbas and terrorist attacks perpetrated by the ultra right. For the large majority of Venezuelans reject violence and favor constitutional means of resolving political contests.
U.S. Sanctions Against Venezuela Evoke Latin American Solidarity with Caracas
The good will generated by rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba has already been tempered by the almost simultaneous new round of sanctions imposed by Washington against Venezuela. It is important to recall, perhaps with some irony, that it was precisely the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s establishment of fraternal ties with a formerly isolated Cuba that drew, in particular, the ire of Washington and the virulent antagonism of the right wing Venezuelan opposition. Now it is Latin American and to a significant extent, international solidarity with Venezuela that may prove to be a thorn in Washington’s side. On December 12, 2014, ALBA issued a strong statement against the Senate passage of the sanctions bill, expressing its “most energetic rejection of these interventionist actions [sanctions] against the people and government of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela.” The statement also warned “that the legislation constitutes an incitement towards the destabilization of…Venezuela and opens the doors to anticonstitutional actions against the legal government and legitimately elected President Nicolas Maduro Moros.” The communiqué also expressed solidarity with Venezuela adding that the countries of ALBA “desire to emphasize that they will not permit the use of old practices already applied to countries in the region, directed at bringing about political regime change, as has occurred in other regions of the world.” MERCOSUR issued a statement on December 17, 2014 that “the application of unilateral sanctions… violate the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of States and does not contribute to the stability, social peace and democracy in Venezuela.” On December 22, the G77 plus China countries expressed solidarity and support for the government of Venezuela in the face of “violations of international law that in no way contributes to the spirit of political and economic dialogue between the two countries.” On December 23, the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations stated that it “categorically rejects the decision of the United States Government to impose unilateral coercive measures against the Republic of Venezuela…with the purpose of weakening its sovereignty, political independence and its right to the self determination, in clear violation of International Law.” It is also important to recall that on October 16, 2014 the UN General Assembly elected Venezuela (by a vote of 181 out of 193 members) to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council with unanimous regional support, even crossing ideological lines. This UN vote came as a grave disappointment to opponents of the Bolivarian revolution and reinforced Venezuelan standing in CELAC. In yet another diplomatic victory, as of September 2015, Venezuela will assume the presidency of the Movement of Non-Aligned Nations for a three year term. Clearly, it is Washington, not Venezuela that has already become an outlier as the Obama administration launches its “renewed leadership in the Americas.” If these immediate expressions of solidarity with the first post-Chavez Bolivarian government in Venezuela are an indicator of a persistent and growing trend, then by the time of the upcoming seventh Summit of the Americas, April 10 – 11, 2015 in Panama, President Obama can expect approbation for Washington’s opening to Havana, but he will also face a united front against U.S. intervention in Venezuela and anywhere else in the region.
Note: Translations by the authors from Spanish to English of government documents are unofficial. Where citations are not present in the text, hyperlinks provide the source.
William Camacaro MFA. is a Senior Analyst at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs and a member of the Bolivarian Circle of New York “Alberto Lovera.”
Frederick B. Mills, Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy at Bowie State University and Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Caracas – Hundreds of people gathered after work yesterday in downtown Caracas to protest Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” – the continuing massive bombardment of Gaza.
At the rally, speaker after speaker voiced outrage at the massacre of innocent children and other civilians and called for the Venezuelan government and MERCOSUR to cut all ties with Israel.
Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cut diplomatic relations with Israel after its earlier war on Gaza in 2008-2009. However, the two countries have maintained commercial relations, and a number of Venezuela’s Latin American allies also maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
On July 10, President Maduro expressed grief over the assassination of three Israeli youth and urged a thorough investigation of the crime. Then he went on to “energetically condemn Israel’s unjust , disproportionate and illegal military attack on the heroic Palestinian people”… and demanded the Israeli government immediately stop this aggression. Then, the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, called on the world powers to raise their voices against the massacre of the Palestinian people by Israeli bombs on Gaza.
An article released by the government sponsored, Venezuelan News Agency (AVN) also pointed out that private media around the world have contributed to the massacre of the people of Gaza by perpetuating the narrative that the military action is a “war between equals”.
AVN noted that Israel is a great military power while the Palestinian people in Gaza have no modern military resources. AVN added that Israel has surrounded and blockaded Gaza, keeping it under siege, since Hamas won elections there in 2006.
Calling for an end to Israeli Impunity
At the rally, and in a number of editorials, members of various grassroots organizations called for an international response to Israel’s “chronic and flagrant disregard for international law”. Hindu Anderi, winner of the prestigious Anibal Nazoa prize in journalism, delivered the main speech at the rally. She received prolonged applause when she called Israel a “terrorist state” that practices systematic murder to maintain its military occupation of Palestine.
The crowd at the rally included children and their parents, youth in kaffiehs and elderly people, Venezuelans from various political organizations on the left, and individuals waving handmade signs and articles picturing wounded children.
They grew more serious when Anderi reminded them, “Our solidarity with Palestine is not enough. We call for a total boycott of Israel by MERCOSUR, ALBA… All countries must put an end to diplomatic, economic, political and cultural ties to Israel. The only thing that will finally stop the terrorist state is to pressure US imperialism, Israel’s principle ally, to stop its support.”
The rally had been announced in government media and the independent left news website, Aporrea. News services had featured graphic photos of the mayhem caused by Israeli bombing. Editorials reflected a consensus that Israel’s international impunity must end. […]
More information on upcoming events can be found on the University of Simon Bolivar’s Solidarity Facebook page.
Merida – Yesterday the Venezuelan government proposed to the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) that it adopt mechanisms to prevent the United States from spying on its countries.
The proposal follows revelations by Brazilian press in July that the US National Security Agency (NSA) monitors internet traffic in Latin America, specially targeting Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil, and also had a network of 16 US spy bases to monitor emails and phone calls in Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Egypt, India, Iran, Turkey, China, Russia, and France.
Mercosur held its I Meeting of Authorities and Experts in Information Security and Telecommunications in Caracas yesterday in response to the spying. Delegations from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay were present, as well a team of experts from Venezuela.
Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua said that Mercosur would form a commission to formulate public policies to counter the US interference. He also said the commission will look at guaranteeing technological independence.
“Governments, companies, and citizens were violated by the United States spying,” Jaua said, arguing that therefore the meeting needed to discuss “the formulation of public policies and mechanisms that allow our heads of state and our governments to fulfil their mandates, which have been violated… because many of them have been victims of spying carried out by the United States government”.
Yesterday’s meeting also discussed creating a Centre of Security Management of Mercosur, promoting public domain software, protection of information as a human right, and creating international and regional norms and regulations for internet security.
The meeting was a follow-up from a decision made by Mercosur in its head of state summit on 12 of July to reject US spying.
Yesterday Jaua also publically expressed his support for Brazilian President Dilma Roussef’s decision to cancel her visit to the United States. She cancelled the 23 October meeting in rejection of US spying, specifically on her own conversations and on the state company Petrobras.
The US government argued in a statement yesterday that it wished to “move beyond the issue [of spying] as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship” and hoped to meet in the future on a “mutually agreed” date.
Previously the US has argued that its program of message interception was aimed at combating “terrorism”, but the Brazilian government alleged that the spying on Petrobras was done for “strategic interests”.
“The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.” Simon Bolivar
Throughout the day, on August 6, President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner of Argentina chaired a historic United Nations Security Council meeting that revealed a seismic shift in geopolitical consciousness and incipient strength.
The agenda of Security Council meeting 7015 was: “Cooperation Between the United Nations and Regional and Sub-regional Organizations in Maintaining International Peace and Security.”
The prelude to this meeting was held, the prior day, August 5, at a press stakeout given by Elias Jaua Milano, Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Hector Timerman, Foreign Minister of Argentina, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Foreign Minister of Brazil, Luis Almagro, Foreign Minister of Uruguay and David Choquehuanca Cespedes, Foreign Minister of Bolivia.
They spoke on behalf of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, following their meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Their remarks focused on the expression of outrage contained in the “Annex to the note verbale dated 22 July from the Permanent Mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, which stated:
“Decision rejecting the acts of espionage conducted by the United States in the countries of the region.” “The President of the Argentine Republic, the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil, the President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay and the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, having met in Montevideo, Eastern Republic of Uruguay, on 12 July, 2013, within the framework of the presidential summit of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR),
Condemning the acts of espionage carried out by intelligence agencies of the United States of America , which affect all countries in the region,
Strongly rejecting the interception of telecommunications and the acts of espionage carried out in our countries, which constitute a violation of the human rights, the right to privacy and the right to information of our citizens, and which also constitute unacceptable behavior that violates our sovereignty and is detrimental to the normal conduct of relations among nations,
Considering the advisability of promoting a coordinated approach to this issue at the regional level,
Work together to guarantee the cybersecurity of the States members to MERCOSUR, which is essential to defending the sovereignty of our countries,
Demand that those responsible immediately cease these activities and provide an explanation of the motives for and consequences of such activities,
Stress that the prevention of crime and the suppression of transnational crimes, including terrorism, must be carried out in line with the rule of law and in strict observance of international law.
Promote the adoption by the relevant multilateral institutions of standards for the regulation of the Internet which place a particular emphasis on cybersecurity issues, with a view to fostering the adoption of standards that guarantee the adequate protection of communications, in particular to safeguard the sovereignty of States and the privacy of individuals,
Express our full solidarity with all countries, within and outside our region that have been victims of such actions,
Promote the joint efforts of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs to inform the Secretary-General of the United Nations of these incidents and request prevention and sanction mechanisms on the issue at the multilateral level
Instruct the delegations of the Member States participating in the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly to jointly present a formal proposal to that end,
Request the Argentine Republic to submit this matter to the Security Council for consideration,
Agree to establish a working group to coordinate efforts, together with the South American Defence Council and the South American Infrastructure and Planning Council, aimed at carrying out activities that will render our telecommunications more secure and reduce our dependence on foreign technology.”
The morning session of the August 6 Security Council meeting consisted primarily of technical diplomatic presentations. Following Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement, Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez Parrella opened the meeting, as President of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC):
“The history of Latin American and the Caribbean has changed. Two hundred years after our independence, the ideas of ‘a Nation of Republics,’ and of ‘Our America’ envisaged by Bolivar and Marti, respectively, are taking shape. Thus, our Heads of State and Government decided in the Caracas Declaration that ‘in accordance with the original mandate of our liberators, CELAC must move forward in the process of political, economic, social and cultural integration – based on a wise equilibrium between the unity and diversity of our peoples … Upon founding CELAC, our Heads of State and Government reiterated our commitment to the building of a more just, equitable and harmonious international order based on respect for international law and the Charter of the United Nations. … They reaffirmed our commitment to the defense of sovereignty and the right of any state to establish its own political system, free from threats, aggression and unilateral coercive measures, and in an environment of peace, stability, justice, democracy and respect for human rights. CELAC reiterates that there can be no lasting peace without development and the eradication of poverty, hunger and inequality … CELAC has adopted a unanimous position with regard to some far-reaching topics on the international agenda, such as, for example, Argentina’s legitimate claim in the dispute concerning the sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, and – today on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima – on so-called nuclear disarmament.”
The representatives of other regional organizations, and the members of the Security Council delivered their statements throughout the morning session of the meeting
When the Security Council resumed for the afternoon session, in a courageous and brilliant tour de force, the Argentine Presidency of the Security Council availed itself of the opportunity to publicly denounce espionage in the service of the resurgence of neo-liberal capitalist imperialism. In an unusual gesture of solidarity and support (considering that Heads of State chairing Security Council meetings seldom remain beyond a perfunctory appearance at the morning session), President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and Ambassador Maria Cristina Perceval were present throughout the afternoon, as the succession of dazzling speeches, delivered by the Latin American Foreign Ministers of Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador illuminated the global menace threatened by the United States National Security Agency programs of surveillance of phone records, e-mails, web-browsing, those very programs disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The foreign ministers of Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador fiercely condemned the United States plan for worldwide espionage, which posed a lethal threat to the democratically elected governments of these Latin American nations and jeopardized their survival.
It is not surprising that this expression of alarm was voiced by Latin America, from Argentina through Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela – in other words from the Southernmost tip of the huge southern continent to the Caribbean, for this continent, viewed imperialistically as the “backyard” of the United States, was for many tragic decades, crushed by military dictatorships inflicting state terror with impunity, following the blueprint of destabilization and overthrow, by the CIA and multinational corporate controlled entities, of their own democratically elected leaders. The tragic destruction of Latin America’s democratically elected governments included President Arbenz in Guatemala, 1954; President Goulart in Brazil, 1964; President Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic, 1965; President Torres in Bolivia, 1971; President Allende in Chile, 1973, and more recently the destabilizations of the democratically elected governments of Honduras and Paraguay (this is not a complete list)
This more than half-century violation of the will of the people of Latin America, engineered by agencies of “the Colossus of the North” was a shattering trauma seared deeply into the consciousness of these leaders, whose recent triumph over fascist military dictatorships which were installed and supported by the United States, is a testament to their moral and intellectual strength and their passion for dignity and control over their own destinies. The Latin American governments speaking at the August 6 Security Council are like the canary in the coal mine: intensely alert and sensitive to imminent or potential threats of repetition of that horrific period they had endured and so recently overcome, these governments denounced widespread evidence of perilous subversive activity, the lethal consequences of which are predictable and terrifying.
The August 6, 2013 afternoon session of the UN Security Council began with Mr. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Foreign Minister of Brazil, who stated, in English:
“You, Madam President made my task easier by referring to the interception of communications and acts of espionage. Such practices violate sovereignty, harm relations between nations and constitute a violation of human rights, inn particular the right to privacy and the right of our citizens to information. In that respect, you have complied with the decision of the States parties of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) who met in Montevideo last month. Yesterday, the Foreign Minister of MERCOSUR conveyed to the Secretary-General the position of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela with respect to and in compliance with, that decision. The matter will also be placed before various United Nations bodies, in accordance with the decision and the document circulated under the symbol A/67/946. This is a very serious issue with a profound impact on the international system. Brazil is coordinating with countries that share similar concerns for the benefit of an international order that respects human rights and the sovereignty of states.
I welcome the timely statement made on 12 July by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay: ‘surveillance programmes without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.’ Pillay also mentioned Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 17 and 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which established, respectively, that ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence,’ and that ‘Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’
Brazil also associates itself with the repeated appeals by Ms. Pillay in various forums that efforts to combat terrorism must necessarily respect human rights and humanitarian law. Her position was incorporated into the decision of the Heads of State of MERCOSUR as well as the Presidential Statement (S/PRST/2013/12) adopted by the Council this morning… Mention should be made of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)… .a defense alliance that does not seem to frame its activities clearly under Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations and has made use of concepts and strategies that raise problematic and sensitive issues in terms of the articulation between the regional level and the United Nations system. We are concerned that, historically, leaders of NATO and member countries have considered that the organization does not necessarily require explicit authorization from the Security Council to resort to coercion.
We are also concerned that NATO has loosely interpreted mandates for action aimed at promoting international peace and security authorized by the Security Council. As Brazil has maintained, including through the Brazilian concept of ‘responsibility while protecting,’ (S/2011/701, annex), the Security Council should avail itself of the institutional means of monitoring the adequate fulfillment of its mandates.
We are concerned, as well that NATO has been searching to establish partnerships out of its area, far beyond the North Atlantic, including in regions of peace, democracy and social inclusion, and that rule out the presence of weapons of mass destruction in their territories. It would be extremely grave for the future of the articulation between regional and global efforts at promoting peace, as prescribed by the United Nations, if groups of countries started to unilaterally define their sphere of action beyond the territory of their own members.”
Next, Mr. David Choquehuanca Cespedes, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia spoke:
“Preserving peace is not and will not be the result of the existence of international policemen, but rather as a result of the promotion of social justice, equity, complementarity, solidarity and respect between states… I should like to express our rejection and condemnation of the practice of espionage on the part of the United States. I should also like to express the grief and indignation of my people and my Government over the act of aggression experienced by President Evo Morales Ayma, which has been described by the international community as offensive, humiliating, discriminatory, colonialistic, unfriendly and a violation of human rights and international standards. Given the grave nature of these facts, we ask the United Nations to clarify these events and to take measures to guarantee human rights and international law so that no one will have to suffer such violations again.”
Next, His Excellency, Mr. Elias Jaua Milano, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Pro-Tempore President of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) stated:
“Today we join in the pleasure of the Bolivian people on its national holiday, and recall the commemoration of the 200 years of the triumphant entry of the liberator Simon Bolivar after having carried out a successful campaign that began in December of 1812 in New Grenada. We must always remember that, when united, we South Americans will achieve independence, equality and democracy for our peoples…. Peace cannot be achieved in the world without social justice and without eradicating once and for all hunger, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and the wide technological divides, in other words, without guaranteeing to all the resources necessary for their full development in equal conditions…. The instruments, declarations, decisions and resolutions of MERCOSUR have sought democracy and peace in the region, including by preventing coups and other attempts to frustrate the democratic will of our peoples, promoted by fascistic movements represented by political and economic leaders that are found particularly in media corporations. These movements attack democratic governments and peoples that have chosen the path of independence, social inclusion and the grass-roots democratization of our societies….
The timely and firm action of MERCOSUR along with other regional and sub-regional organizations, managed to stop attempted coups in Paraguay in 1996 and 1999, thereby guaranteeing democratic order. Similarly, in 2006 and 2007 MERCOSUR condemned and took action to prevent attempts to divide Bolivia as a way of weakening the democratic government of President Evo Morales. Likewise, the Foreign Ministers of the countries members of MERCOSUR condemned the attempted coup against President Rafael Correa in Ecuador on 30 September 2010, joining with other regional blocs to issue a joint warning to the world and prevent that crime from taking place. Although it could not be prevented, MERCOSUR acted decisively in the parliamentary coup against President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay in June, 2012. On that occasion the foreign ministers of MERCOSUR and UNASUR traveled to Asuncion with the intention of starting a dialogue and preventing the interruption of the constitutional order. That was not achieved, and the bloc had to temporarily suspend the Republic of Paraguay until its political, institutional and democratic situation was normalized through the holding of elections. More recently, MERCOSUR has been able to circumvent those situations with peaceful and democratic mechanisms, without economic blocades, military intervention, indiscriminate bombing or armed intervention of any kind. We believe that the only way to defeat violence is with greater democracy and peaceful means. Mercosur has also participated in issues that affect international peace and security, such as the coup in Honduras against President Zelaya…
Unfortunately in recent times we have been concerned to see that some countries have continued to assert their political, military and economic power and distorted the very essence of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations. They have gone so far as to use the Security Council as a platform to encourage armed interventions against sovereign states and peoples with a view to promoting the poorly named regime change, in contravention of all principles of International Law… as Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and as Pro-Tempore President of MERCOSUR I take this opportunity to reiterate our firm condemnation of the insult to the office of the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, President Evo Morales, when some European Governments did not permit the overflight or landing of the aircraft transporting him. That was not only a hostile, unfounded, discriminatory and arbitrary action, but also a flagrant violation of the precepts of international law.”
“Similarly, we reject the actions of global espionage carried out by the government of the United States , which undermine the sovereignty of States and which we have become familiar with through the revelations of the former security contractor, Edward Snowden. Given the seriousness of these reports of computer espionage on a global scale, recognized by the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union himself, the United Nations must initiate a broad multilateral discussion that would make it possible to design agreements to safeguard the sovereignty and security of States in the light of such illegal practices. MERCOSUR has begun action to promote a discussion on this matter so that we can open an appropriate investigation within the United Nations and punish and condemn this violation of international law.”
“We reiterate our condemnation of actions that could undermine the power of States to fully implement the right of humanitarian asylum. In this respect, we reject any attempt to pressure, harass or criminalize a state or third party over the sovereign decision of any nation to grant asylum, which is enshrined in all international conventions. Likewise, we express our solidarity with the Governments of Bolivia and Nicaragua , which, like Venezuela, have offered asylum to Mr. Snowden, as expressed by the Heads of State of MERCOSUR in the decision concerning the universal recognition of the right of political asylum, issued in Montevideo on 12 July. These three matters were discussed yesterday with the Secretary-General of the United Nations”
In her remarkable work, entitled “The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” (published in 2007) journalist Naomi Klein states, page 573:
“Though clearly drawing on a long militant history, Latin America ’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks of the past – the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the U.S. trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses of the eighties and nineties. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. …
Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future U.S. backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. The governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina and Uruguay have all announced they will no longer send students to the School of Americas, the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest I “counterterrorism” (torture) techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina…. If the U.S. military does not have bases or training programs, its power to inflict shocks will be greatly eroded…
Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego….
Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington, and even Argentina, Washington’s former ‘model pupil’ has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union Address (the late) President Nestor Kirchner said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him, ‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt. We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.’ As a result the IMF, supremely powerful in the eighties, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio, in 2007 the continent represented just 1 percent – a sea change in only two years. ‘There is life after the IMF,’ Kirchner declared, ‘and it is a good life.’”
Having resisted foreign (and domestic) military control, and foreign (and neoliberal) economic control, the new peril confronting Latin America’s independent governments emanates from the United States’ National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programs, an insidious new cyber-age method of total social control of the most private and intimate spaces of their lives – and identities, their minds, destroying their capacity to forge networks of solidarity and obtain the information crucial to their understanding and critical thinking, without which they are vulnerable to being reduced to the condition of the “zombies” (so popular in Hollywood’s movie narrative), rendering them confused, docile, easily herded, subjugated, ultimately exploited and enslaved. This surveillance is tantamount to imposing total individual and societal control, which is a stealthy form of isolation, a form of psychological and intellectual solitary confinement, one of the cruelest forms of torture, which ultimately leads to the disintegration of the human personality, within an invisible prison.
This condition is described by the American Civil Liberties Union, and quoted in Charles Savage’s August 8 report to The New York Times:
“Hints of the surveillance appeared in a set of rules, leaked by Mr. Snowden, for how the NSA may carry out the 2008 FISA law. One paragraph mentions that the agency ‘seeks to acquire communications about the target that are not to or from the target.’ The pages were posted online by the newspaper The Guardian on June 20, but the telltale paragraph, the only rule marked ‘Top Secret’ amid 18 pages of restrictions, went largely overlooked amid other disclosures…. While the paragraph hinting at the surveillance has attracted little attention, the American Civil Liberties Union did take note of the ‘about the target’ language in a June 21 post analyzing the larger set of rules, arguing that the language could be interpreted as allowing ‘bulk collection of international communications, including those of Americans’…. Jameel Jaffer, a senior lawyer at the ACLU said Wednesday that such ‘dragnet surveillance will be poisonous to the freedoms of inquiry and association’ because people who know that their communications will be searched will change their behavior. ‘They’ll hesitate before visiting controversial web sites, discussing controversial topics or investigating politically sensitive questions. Individually, these hesitations might appear to be inconsequential, but the accumulation of them over time will change citizens’ relationship to one another and to the government.’”
The infrastructure for de facto fascist police state and military control is being established under the guise of counterterrorism, (as, earlier, similar fascist states were established under the guise of fighting communism) a phenomena Latin America recognizes and knows from horrific historic experience. And their historic memory of this has not yet been expunged: indeed, many of the leaders of Latin America today were earlier imprisoned and tortured only a few decades ago under such fascist police and military states (established ostensibly in the name of anti-communism), including Chile’s former, and possibly future President Michelle Bachelet, Brazil’s President Dilma Roussef, Argentina’s late President Nestor Kirchner, and the world famous father of Argentina’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, the late Jacobo Timerman, imprisoned and tortured for two years during the Argentine military dictatorship’s “dirty war.” No doubt, Uruguay ’s President Jose Mujica well remembers those horrors, and Chile ’s former President Ricardo Lago spent considerable time in prison during the Pinochet dictatorship.
Patino Aroca, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, next delivered, at the August 6 Security Council meeting, one of the great speeches in United Nations history.
“During the recent summit of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) that took place on 12 July in Montevideo, the States convened resolved to ‘request Argentina to submit the matter of the massive espionage case uncovered by Edward Snowden for consideration by the Security Council.’ They also resolved to ‘demand that those responsible for those actions immediately cease therefrom and provide explanations of their motivations and their consequences.’ In similar terms, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America spoke at the last Guayaquil summit which was held just five days ago, when it was decided to ‘warn the international community about the seriousness of these actions, which imply a threat to the security and peaceful coexistence among our States”…
“Just a few weeks ago the world saw a sequence of events more akin to a Cold War spy novel than to modern times. On 5 June, leaks began to appear in publications in major global media outlets, leaks that were mixed with almost deathly intent and unspooled as a reality show before global public opinion. The leaks came from a former 29-year-old American analyst who sought to escape deportation to his country, where he would be tried for those leaks. After a journey that began in Hong Kong and was supposed to end in Latin America, today, it seems to have stopped, but it may not have completely run its course, despite the granting of asylum by Russia.”
“During those few days in June we saw the size and the discretional nature of a massive surveillance apparatus that suddenly brought all the inhabitants of the planet closer than ever to an Orwellian nightmare. Although at first it appeared to be a simple matter of wiretapping, it was later discovered that there was discretionary monitoring of e-mails. While it seemed initially that the apparatus was being used in operations against organized crime, later we learned that it was also being used to gain advantage in trade negotiations with other countries. If we once thought that they were simply looking at unaffected States, we now know that everyone — absolutely everyone, debtors and creditors, friends and enemies, South and North – is considered a usual suspect by the authorities of the United States of America. Now we know that our communications are permanently monitored by them.”
“No one knows yet if Mr. Snowden will once again manage to leak information that he claims to possess. Of course, it seems that he will not do it when he is in Russia. In any case, the wounds opened by those events should be assessed within the main multilateral forums. They deserve to be so because not only do they reflect an unacceptable imbalance in the global governance system, which in no case would help to build a climate of trust and cooperation between countries, and, in the final analysis, a climate of peace among nations. They deserve to be assessed because we have also moved dangerously close to the limits set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“The imbalances to which I refer are clear – the United States, like any other countries, has the need to deal with demands related to its national security, it goes without saying, but those legitimate demands must be dealt with in a way that does not affect the rights of individuals or indeed the sovereignty of other nations. That is to say, limits must be set. However, we are now faced with the fact that any limits there may have been have vanished. The national security of the United States has been placed above all universal moral values.”
“Such a drive has meant that the principles of equality and non-interference in the affairs of States, established in the Westphalia peace agreement, have now vanished into thin air. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been violated. The rights to the privacy of correspondence – article 12 – and to freedom of expression and opinion – article 19 – the rights of all citizens of the world, including United States citizens, have been trampled in the name of a greater goal, that is, national security – or rather, for the sake of the profits of the national security industry.”
“What are the limits, really? Has the time not come for the Council to take up this question again and discuss it? In the end, does this not pose a threat to global peace? What mutual trust could possibly exist among nations under such circumstances? We believe that the time has come for the United Nations to face up to this matter responsibly.”
“As we have seen with the disappearance of such limits, this situation threatens to build walls between our countries. If it has not done so already, it could also affect international cooperation against organized crime; strangely enough, there is even the possibility that trade negotiations could be disrupted. Paradoxically, even the very national security of the United States will suffer from the increase in global mistrust generated by massive espionage.”
“The events to which I have referred have also revealed other very disturbing realities. To start off with, it has re-ignited the debate on the right of asylum, which all human beings have, as enshrined in international law, as well as the ability of any sovereign state to grant it. This is a right that is granted to avoid fear of political persecution; its legitimacy can only be determined by the country granting it. Let us also remember its peaceful and humanitarian nature, which cannot in any case be described as unfriendly towards any other State, as established in General Assembly resolution 2312 (XXII) on territorial asylum. I should also quote Ms. Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on the case at hand: ‘Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy.’”
“Leaders who should be giving explanations and facing up to the debate on the limits of what we are discussing, have instead launched a crusade against the right to asylum – a full-on diplomatic offensive against countries that have taken to the global stage to show interest in such an important case. States in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) have been under pressure, simply because they are considering a request for asylum. All those countries have signed the 1954 Caracas Convention on Territorial Asylum, which is perhaps one of the most important instruments of the Inter-American human rights system.”
“The day the United States signs that treaty – even the day it ratifies the San Jose pact, one of the foundations of the Inter-American system of human rights – we will be closer to seeing that country adhere to the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, and it will become a part of a group of equal nations, committed to complying with international law.”
“Instead of joining this group, we find ourselves with a country that prefers to lunge forwards and blame the messenger in order to cloud the message. The final result was that a group of countries decided to endanger the life of the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, forcing him and his entourage to make an emergency landing in violation of international norms governing respectful relations among nations.”
“It is not the revelation of the offence that threatens the climate of understanding among nations, it is the offence itself. In a fragile world where armed conflicts are barely affected by international pressure, such actions do not help generate trust but tension.”
“I would like to conclude with two comments.”
“First, the Government of Ecuador fully supports the request of the Bolivian Government that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights conduct an exhaustive investigation into the unjustifiable treatment suffered by President Evo Morales Ayma during his trip from Moscow to La Paz.”
“Secondly, massive global, discretionary and unlimited surveillance must stop. It is for the Security Council to urgently make that demand of one of its permanent members, since, theoretically, it is up to this body to maintain peace on our planet. That, too, is the demand of Latin America, a zone of peace that, through organizations such as MERCOSUR and ALBA, has demanded an end to those practices. It is also required by the spirit of coexistence, which inspired the drafting of the Charter of the United Nations. It is also the appeal of billions of people in the world who understand that any action that aims to ensure the security of a country has its limits, which are the human rights of everyone on the planet.”
The representative of the United States, Mr. DeLaurentis replied:
“Let me address an issue unrelated to our debate that was raised earlier today, namely, the United States efforts to prevent terrorism and the recent disclosure of classified information about techniques we use to do that. All Governments do things that are secret: it is a fact of modern governing and a necessity in the light of the threats all our citizens face. Our counter-Terrorism policy is ultimately about saving people’s lives, which is why the United States works with other countries to protect our citizens and those of other nations from many threats. All nations should be concerned about the damage these disclosures can cause to our ability to collectively defend against those threats.”
Contradicting this assertion, a senior United States intelligence official said, regarding the ‘about the target’ surveillance that it “was difficult to point to any particular terrorist plot that would have been carried out if the surveillance had not taken place.” He said it was one tool among many used to assemble a ‘mosaic’ of information in such investigations. “The surveillance was used for other types of foreign-intelligence collection, not just terrorism investigations,” the official said. This admission that this surveillance is not limited to preventing terrorism is the most damning indictment of the secrecy of the program.
The American people, whose taxes pay for these programs, have an inalienable right to know what are the “other” uses to which these surveillance programs are being put, in their name. Powerfully refuting any contention that these surveillance activities are for the purpose of preventing terrorism is the testimony of United States Senator, Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, who said he had been shown a classified list of “terrorist events” detected through surveillance, and it did not show that ‘dozens or even several terrorist plots’ had been thwarted by the domestic program. “If this program if not effective, it has to end. So far I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen,” Senator Leahy said, denouncing ‘the massive privacy implications’ of keeping records of every American’s domestic calls.
What really is the purpose of this NSA program of global surveillance? Failing to significantly thwart terrorist activity, it must have an ultimate purpose. The possibilities are terrifying. The hysterical, desperate and deadly determination to arrest Snowden suggests that he may have uncovered something further, something so illegal that the authors of such crimes will not hesitate to endanger the very lives they claim to be protecting, in order to prevent exposure. The frantic orchestration of the actions endangering the life of the President of Bolivia makes this conclusion unavoidable.
The August 6 Security Council meeting under the Presidency of Argentina re-enforced the credibility of the United Nations. The Government of Argentina and her courageous sister nations of Latin America have thrown down the gauntlet on behalf of the majority of the citizens of this planet.
- Argentine President Urges Re-think of UN Security Council (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mercosur complains to Ban Ki-moon on US global espionage and EU affront towards Bolivia’s Evo Morales (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Mercosur complains to Ban Ki-moon on US global espionage and EU affront towards Bolivia’s Evo Morales
Mercosur foreign ministers warned UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the serious implications which the United States global espionage system represents for the international community, during a Monday midday meeting at the UN headquarters in New York.
“We have expressed our concern and warning over the serious implications that these illegal procedures displayed by the government of the US have on the political stability of countries and the necessary mutual trust of the international community members”, said Venezuelan minister Elias Jaua at a press conference following the meeting with Ban Ki-moon.
Jaua was the spokesperson of the Mercosur group of foreign ministers, Antonio Patriota, from Brazil; Hector Timerman from Argentina and Luis Almagro, Uruguay, as well as associate member Bolivia’s David Choquehuanca, because Venezuela since last July holds the rotating chair of the South American trade block.
The ministers thus complied with the formal request from the last presidential summit of Mercosur in Montevideo in mid July, when there was an official release condemning US world espionage, which was revealed by the former intelligence officer and whistle-blower Edward Snowden currently with one year political asylum in Moscow.
“This practice is absolutely in violation of international rights for the safeguard of countries sovereignty and independence, and even more, is in violation of fundamental human rights of the citizens of our countries”, underlined Jaua.
When asked about the reply of Ban Ki-moon to the Mercosur statement, Brazilian minister Patriota said that the top US official “shared the concern” of the block. “UN Secretary General reacted in a way that showed awareness towards the message we transmitted from our presidents”, added Patriota.
During the meeting the ministers also expressed Mercosur ‘deep concern’ because of ‘the abuse and affront’ to Bolivian leader Evo Morales presidential immunity “when he was impeded air space free passage over several European countries under suspicion that his aircraft could be transporting Mr. Snowden”, when he was still stranded in the Moscow airport and hoping to be granted political asylum by some country.
The decision adopted by Spain, France, Italy and Portugal last 2 July “seriously endangered not only the dignity of president Evo Morales, but also his own physical safety since he had to over-fly with limited fuel and was forced to land in Vienna”, explained Jaua.
Snowden who is wanted by Washington for having leaked the existence of a US secret program that operates domestically and internationally to spy on phone and internet communications, was finally granted temporary asylum (one year) in Russia given the difficulties to fly to Latinamerica where several countries had offered to help him.
Precisely asylum was another issue addressed with Ban Ki-moon following on the strong pressure exercised by the US on several Latam countries (Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela) which offered an alternative to Snowden.
“For us Latinamericans the right to asylum is a right all citizens can exercise as well as the right of States to be respected when they extend such a benefit, and it is a principle we are not willing to negotiate” said the Mercosur spokesperson emphatically, who then recalled that ‘this very principle helped to save many lives during the hard years of the military dictatorships suffered by many countries of the region”.
Finally the foreign ministers reiterated their standing concern on two recurring issues: the US blockade on Cuba and Argentina’s claim over Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty.
There is a demand that these two issues “definitively find a solution since they are highly sensitive and of great concern for the Latam region”.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez was scheduled to meet Ban Ki-moon later in the day in advance of her speech to the Security Council on Tuesday, taking advantage of the fact that Argentina will be holding the presidency of the council during the month of August. The president arrived in New York on Monday morning.
- S. American states to recall ambassadors from Europe over Bolivian plane incident (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Hector Timerman, Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared today that he will take to court a list with names of government officials allegedly spied upon by the US. The list was given to him on Friday, during the Mercosur summit.
“I can’t let the judiciary out of it,” said Timerman. ”I will briefly explain to the court what happened last Friday,” he said referring to the list he received with the names of people who have been spied on by the US government.
“I leave everything into justice’s hands,” added the minister.
Last Friday, during the Mercosur summit held in Montevideo, Uruguay, Timerman declared: “I received an hour ago, from a country present in this room, the names with the e-mail addresses and the passwords” of people that the US were spying on.
However, he refused to say who sent him the list. “They asked me to remain silent. This list has been given to me by a person that I trust.”
According to the minister, the list includes the names of “the governor of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, as well as other regional representatives, secretaries, officials’ wives, and other actors of Argentine civil life.” Vice-President Amado Boudou is also mentioned.
That same day, member countries of Mercosur issued a resolution condemning the espionage activities carried out by the US government, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The resolution states the intention of the member countries to work together for “cybernetic security”, something they describe as “an essential aspect to defend countries’ sovereignty”. They also demanded “an immediate stop to these actions” and “an explanations about [the US’s] motivations.”
“Crime prevention, as well as transnational crimes repression, including terrorism, must be done according to international law,” they added.
- US Congress calls for sanctions against Argentina over growing Iran ties (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- S. American states to recall ambassadors from Europe over Bolivian plane incident (alethonews.wordpress.com)
South American countries belonging to the Mercosur trade bloc have decided to withdraw their ambassadors for consultations from European countries involved in the grounding of the Bolivian president’s plane.
“We’ve taken a number of actions in order to compel public explanations and apologies from the European nations that assaulted our brother Evo Morales,” explained Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, who revealed some of the agenda debated during the 45th summit of Mercosur countries in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.
The decision to recall European ambassadors was taken by Maduro, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, and Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, during the meeting.
Member states attending the summit expressed their grievances with “actions by the governments of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal” over the July 2 incident, when the aircraft carrying President Evo Morales back to Bolivia after attending an energy summit in Moscow was denied entry into the airspace of a number of EU member states.
The small aircraft, which required a stop-over before completing its flight, was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria after a circuitous flight path.
It was later revealed that the European countries’ actions were prompted by accusations made by the US ambassador to Austria, William Eacho, who alleged that American whistleblower Edward Snowden had been taken on board to help him gain political asylum in Latin America.
“The gravity of the incident – indicative of a neocolonial mindset – constitutes an unfriendly and hostile act, which violates human rights and impedes freedom of travel, as well as the treatment and immunity appropriate to a head of state,” the Mercosur nations affirmed in the joint statement.
The incident was further described as a “discriminatory and arbitrary” decision by European countries, as well as a “blatant violation of international law.”
With Rafael Correa emerging victorious for a third and final term in Sunday’s presidential elections, the leader of the Alianza País party spoke to Argentine newspaper Página 12 about Ecuador becoming part of the Mercosur agreement, their relationship with Argentina, and same-sex marriage. During the interview, he also announced that his party obtained “97 or 98 seats” in the National Assembly, though the final results of the recount are yet to be announced by the National Electoral Council.
In the interview, Correa first discussed the strengthening of ties with Argentina by “further deepening the bilateral relationship” through trade, and agreed with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s condemnation of the “total surrender of our countries at the hands of transnational corporations”. Correa went on to say however that the relationship between the two countries is more than commercial because “with Argentina we have the same political vision”.
Throughout the interview Correa expressed his hope to join Mercosur, and when asked if the dollarisation of Ecuador would hinder the incorporation into the agreement, Correa agreed that it is “an obstacle for any integration process and trade liberalisation”. However, he insisted that “we are very interested in joining Mercosur… and they are very interested in integrating Ecuador”.
Speaking of the impending expiration of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication act (ATPDEA), Correa said, “Andean countries have a responsibility [to join these agreements] because they are the biggest producers of drugs! But the US say nothing of the responsibility they have for consuming them.” He went on to say that this agreement is “a new form of pressure for countries that do not behave according to the mentality of the US”, and that “if [the act is] extended, fine, if not, we will know how to succeed.”
As the interview progressed, Correa was questioned on the topic of same-sex marriage, in which he responded that, “the Constitution says that marriage is an institution between people of a different sex”. Correa said that although “we promote many rights and the non-discrimination of any person for any reason… the Constitution clearly says that marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Finally, when asked if the continuation of his government would mean a less restrictive abortion law, Correa said that, “personally I will not promote any law that goes beyond the two cases that are already covered in the current legislation, in the case of a violation of a woman with intellectual disabilities and in the case of rape, when a child is violated.”
You can read the interview in full here.
Bolivia’s ‘process of change’: the balance sheet for 2012, and challenges to come
By Katu Arkonada | La Epoca* | December 18, 2012
2012 has been a year of transition for the process of change in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, notwithstanding the many events, problems and contradictions encountered by the executive branch during the last 12 months of its administration. A year of transition because we have left behind the 2010-2011 biennial of consolidation following the 64% victory of President Morales in the December 2009 election and are now entering a new biennial, 2013-2014, which will take us very rapidly to the presidential elections of December 2014.
By way of a balance sheet
2012 was without a doubt the year of the consulta [consultation] in the TIPNIS [Territorio Indígena and Parque Nacional Isiboro-Secure], the year when the government probably lost an international battle against a major marketing strategy designed in the offices of a certain opposition and some NGOs, but won the war for legitimacy in Bolivia. The result is overwhelming, leaving no room for doubt: of the 58 communities consulted (84% of them, since 11 refused to participate in the consulta), 55 (79%) approved the construction of the highway. This result dismantles the postmodern and Rousseauist analyses that knew little of the history and actors of the TIPNIS, classifying them as good savages living in the woods without needing anything more, and demonstrated to us that the majority of the communities of the TIPNIS want a greater state presence for access to health and education primarily. In any case the conflict has not ended and no doubt during the next two years the opposition will campaign against the construction of a highway in a country so colonized and plundered that it still has no road connecting two of its nine departments.
But 2012 has also been the year of the economy. Bolivia continued to grow at an annual rate of 5.2% (above the rate in Brazil, Mexico or Uruguay, to cite three examples), and the per capita share of GDP increased in 2012 to $2,238, double what it was in 2006 ($1,182). As for foreign trade, exports in the first quarter of 2012 exceeded the total of all exports in 2007: $5.068 billion compared with $4.822 billion, and the international reserves reached $14 billion — almost 50% of the Bolivian GDP, giving the country the highest level of reserves as a percentage of GDP in all of Latin America.
Similarly, public investment in 2012 will exceed $2 billion, as opposed to $879 million in 2006, and the public external debt totals $3.704 billion, down from $4.947 billion in 2005. By June 2012 three out of every 10 Bolivians were receiving conditional direct transfer payments (bonos), producing a redistribution of wealth that has reduced poverty by almost 12 percentage points in five years (48.5% in 2011) and extreme poverty by 13 percentage points during the same period (24.3%). Another factor in poverty reduction was the rise of the minimum wage in 2012 to 1,000 bolivianos [USD$1 = 7 BOB], compared with 815 BOBs in 2011 or the 440 BOB in 2005 when the MAS was first elected.
Another important factor to mention, when analyzing the past year, is the accomplishments in foreign policy, particularly the actions carried out in the negotiations with Chile for sovereign access to the sea, and the legal demand that Bolivia is going to make in The Hague , as well as the recent application to become a full member of Mercosur, the fifth largest economic entity in the world. And we should also note Bolivia’s leadership within ALBA  and the G77+China in such multilateral negotiations as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 or the COP [Conference of Parties] on Climate Change. Never before has Bolivia had a sovereign foreign policy, changing the paradigm from neoliberal diplomatic conduct to one of Diplomacy of the Peoples.
Lastly, we cannot complete this brief end-of-year balance sheet without mentioning the recently uncovered case of corruption in the Ministry of Government [the Interior ministry], a ministry that correctly confronted a political mutiny in June and that has now done what a government leading a democratic and cultural revolution had to do, acting forcefully to detain all of those involved and pursuing the matter irrespective of who it might bring down. It is probable that we don’t (yet) know all of the ramifications of this case, but for the good of the process they must be brought to light and the harshest punishment meted out to anyone involved, and if they are a member of the government the penalty should be even greater, to demonstrate the latter’s integrity and coherency.
Challenges for 2013-2014
Notwithstanding the recent events in Venezuela, Chávez’s victory in winning election for six more years and the more than probable victory of Correa in Ecuador in February (almost certainly without the need for a second round), means that the process that is going forward in Bolivia will be menaced even more by those who feel threatened by the anti-imperialist and anticolonial policies being advanced by President Evo Morales. No doubt great efforts (and much money) will be spent in striking at one of the weakest links in the ALBA and the processes of change in the continent, and in attempting to consolidate an opposition alternative to the MAS government.
An initial step in the continued deepening of the process of change should be the victory in January of Jessica Jordán, the MAS candidate for Governor in Beni. A victory in this Amazon department on January 20 would be a definitive blow to the Media Luna and the hopes of repeating in Bolivia the Venezuelan scheme of the Mesa de Unidad. Obviously this will not be an easy victory in one of the most conservative regions of Bolivia, in which the hacendado power still has a great capacity for action and mobilization, but the very fact that first place is in dispute is already a victory in itself and a palpable demonstration that things are changing.
Not to be overlooked, as well, are the middle classes that the MSM  is attempting to woo with a moderate management-oriented discourse. However, in October 2012 it was revealed that the Municipality of La Paz was spending only 26% of its budget [dedicated to public investment – RF], far below the 50% average across the ministries. We can conclude that if the MSM is not capable of managing a city hall, it will have a hard time managing a state. But within that middle class layer, and in expectation of the results of the 2012 Population Census, we are going to have hundreds of thousands of new voters who in 2009 were too young to vote and now need to be won over with a discourse that must go beyond the proposals for change and be accompanied by a political program that involves them in the construction of this country’s politics.
Finally, the bases that have been built and consolidated in the process of change cannot be overlooked. It may be that those bases that are closest are not at risk, but it is necessary to strengthen them, to continue expanding the hard core, the popular and subaltern sectors that are the soul [ajayu] of this revolution, because without them the revolution would collapse piece by piece, but with them we will be able to begin thinking of the Patriotic Agenda 2025, converting the political and decolonizing revolution into a post-capitalist economic revolution.
The author, who describes himself here as a “militant in the process of change,” is a researcher at the Universidad de la Cordillera, a frequent contributor to the Bolivian edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, and works with the Ministry of Foreign Relations of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. He is of Basque origin.
 The lawfully mandated consulta (consultation) of the communities directly affected by the proposed highway project, which was the subject of much controversy and two recent marches by dissident indigenous activists, concluded its proceedings on December 7. The overwhelming majority of the communities that participated in the consulta approved the construction of the highway between Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos. See: http://www.la-razon.com/nacional/Consulta-cierra-promesa-fondos-ecologica_0_1738626180.html. For a discussion of the issues involved, see my translation of a book by Bolivian Vice-President Álvaro García Linera, Geopolitics of the Amazon, published in five parts at Life on the Left, and on several other sites. — RF
 The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America [Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América] is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
 In November several senior counsel in the Ministry were implicated in an attempt to extort money from a U.S. citizen, Jacob Ostreicher, who came to Bolivia four years ago and invested in rice production in Santa Cruz. He was indicted for money-laundering in June. The Bolivian suspects are alleged to have offered his release in return for his payment to them of $50,000. See Desbaratan red de corrupción y extorsión en la que operaban dos asesores del Ministerio de Gobierno, and Morales asegura que hay “infiltrados” que buscan desprestigiar al Gobierno.
 The four departments of the so-called Media Luna (literally, “half moon”) comprising the eastern portion of Bolivia have been centers of conservative resistance to the Morales government, their governors often collaborating in opposition to La Paz. In Venezuela the rightist opposition to Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution coalesced behind a single presidential candidate in the recent national election, when he was defeated by Chávez.
 MSM, the Movimiento Sin Miedo [Fearless Movement], a center-left opposition party that currently controls the mayoralty in La Paz.
 2025 will be the bicentennial of Bolivia’s independence from Spain.
- Bolivia signs Mercosur incorporation protocol and becomes sixth member (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Bolivia nationalises electric utilities (nzherald.co.nz)
Bolivian president Evo Morales subscribed on Friday the Mercosur incorporation protocol which makes it the sixth member of the regional group. The event took place in Brasilia during the Mercosur summit hosted by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff.
At the summit which also included associate members, President Morales and his peers signed the document. “With the signing of the protocol, Bolivia becomes the six member state of Mercosur”, announced officially the spokesperson for the Brazilian Executive.
“The protocol defines the different stages and commitment to reach the full incorporation of Bolivia to Mercosur”, added the spokesperson. “The full membership will take place once the Legislatives of the other full members ratify the protocol”.
“Evo, you are most welcome” said president Rousseff before the signing of the document. “This has been good news for the summit. We have skipped years of negotiations with the Bolivian decision to sign the adhesion protocol”.
At the summit President Rousseff as chair of Mercosur stamped her signature to the definitive incorporation of Venezuela as full member which was decided in an extraordinary meeting last July in Rio do Janeiro.
At the summit also, Brazil handed the rotating chair of Mercosur to Uruguay in the hands of President Jose Mujica, for the next six months, thus skipping Paraguay, temporarily suspended and which according to alphabetical order was to have such responsibility.
- Brazil calls for better integrated trading bloc (vancouverdesi.com)
Mérida – Yesterday President Hugo Chavez met with over a thousand workers in the large hall of the Caruachi Hydroelectric Complex of the Guyana Venezuela Corporation (CVG) to sign an agreement to begin the organisation and construction of the Orinoco Axis of Development.
Representatives of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA and CVG signed the agreement to collaborate in the creation of this “axis of development” in the Orinoco area, one of several such axes in specific regions that Chavez has proposed in his plan for 2013-2019. CVG is a mostly worker co-managed entity that extracts and processes primary material such as iron, gold, and bauxite.
Chavez said the strategy was to unite the north and south of the Orinoco zone. That is, to unite the Orinoco Oil Belt to the north of the river, which holds the world’s largest oil reserves, with the Industrial Mining Belt to the south of it. However, Chavez said the area also includes 600,000 hectares where agricultural production can be fostered. The axis will have an area of around 100,000 square kilometres in total.
The union between PDVSA and CVG is the result of years of discussion, Chavez said, “and is related to large historical objectives which we have proposed for ourselves… and the need for planning… in the long and medium term”.
CVG president Rafael Gil Barrios explained to the press today that the PDVSA-CVG agreement is already being concretised, including the creation of mixed companies (smaller companies run by the two larger main ones) such as Petro San Feliz. CVG will own 10% of this company, of the 70% of stocks that PDVSA already owns.
Steel projects, Workers and Mercosur
Workers from CVG, from the Sidor steel plant, and from PDVSA attended the meeting with Chavez, during which he also approved US$ 324 million for Sidor, to go towards increasing its production. That includes $18.5 million to update rust removal technology and $250 million for a project to install machinery for round billet mould assembly. The steel tubes produced from this machinery will benefit the petroleum industry in the Orinoco oil belt. The financing comes from agreements with China.
Chavez asked workers to audit the projects and to protest when work is taking too long or is halted. His comment comes as some cement workers have voted to go on national strike “against the policy of the Chavez government of freezing collective contracts in order to please the capitalists”, as stated by the Revolutionary Socialist Current two days ago.
“Just like when you all protest, and rightly so, when for example, the dividends don’t arrive… so I approved Bs 600 million recently for such loans,” Chavez said, adding that, “Workers have the right to protest in a thousand ways, but not damaging the production of … the [state owned] companies of Guayana… there are mafias who buy off the workers…and their managers… they have to be denounced.”
The president also emphasised the importance of the axis and its region in Venezuela’s incorporation into the trade bloc, Mercosur, formalised in July.
“We have to start to construct the railroad from the Caribbean (Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela) to Manaos (in the Brazilian Amazon)… this is vital and Guayana’s role in that is vital,” Chavez said and also announced that he was forming a new presidential commission to deal with Venezuela’s integration into Mercosur. The commission will consist of mostly selected members of his cabinet and is presided by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Mercosur executive secretary Isabel Delgado.
Nicolas Maduro, added, “This large economic force, this mining, industrial, petroleum, agricultural force is our country’s direct relationship with Mercosur… the Mercosur commission starts today (Monday) and they have oriented us towards forming a Business Council and a Worker Council of Mercosur”.
“There’s a lot of motivation to increase the productive and exporting potential Venezuela has in the large market of South America, which is Mercosur,” Maduro concluded.
The government re-nationalised the Sidor steel plant in 2008, and CVG workers in July 2009 proposed a model of production and workers control which Chavez supported, called Plan Socialist Guayana 2009-2019. The plan involved transforming the state owned CVG and its companies into socialist companies, and in 2010 CVG workers elected the directors of the respective companies that make up the corporation for the first time.
Ramirez confirmed as president of PDVSA and increased oil production
Today Chavez also announced that the president of PDVSA, as well as the minister of petroleum and mining, Rafael Ramirez, will remain president of PDVSA for the upcoming management period of 2013-2019.
Chavez made the announcement during a meeting in Monagas state with the workers of the Orinoco Oil Belt there. He also outlined plans to increase petroleum production in Venezuela generally to 6 million barrels a day by 2019, said that the government is currently “investing around 5 billion dollars in the belt” and that over the next 6 years the government aims to invest $100 billion.
Ramirez informed that the Venezuelan state has received US$ 383,223 million through petroleum taxes over the last thirteen years. This income was a result of fiscal reforms the government implemented from 2002 in the petroleum sectors. Before those reforms, transnationals in the petroleum sector only payed taxes of 1%, a figure the government increased to 33% in 2002.
Chavez said this money has been invested in education, health, agriculture, and housing.
- China soon to be Venezuela’s No. 1 trade partner due to strategic alliance (thesantosrepublic.com)
- Chavez after an energy alliance with Argentina and Brazil in the framework of Mercosur (en.mercopress.com)
- With Venezuela Mercosur has become “a new pole of world power” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Venezuela’s entry enhances Mercosur (english.pravda.ru)
- Chavez says Venezuela’s incorporation into Mercosur will generate over 240,000 jobs (english.pravda.ru)
- Venezuela formally joins Mercosur trading bloc (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Argentine President Cristina Fernández said on Tuesday during a press conference held at the Mercosur extraordinary summit in Brasilia, that Venezuela’s entry to the bloc “strengthens the entire region” and creates a “new pole of power” at world level.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay made the incorporation act official at the special summit held in Brasilia with the attendance of the four leaders: Cristina Fernandez, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and the host Dilma Rousseff.
The event started Tuesday morning in the Planalto Palace when the four presidents met and later had the family picture taken. This was followed by a press conference and a special lunch at the Brazilian Itamaraty chancery in honour of the presidents.
“This is a historic day that fills me with joy”, said the Argentine president adding that the inclusion of Venezuela “calls for the creation of the institutions for this new pole of power”.
Venezuela incorporation to Mercosur was decided at the mid year presidential summit in Mendoza, Argentina at the end of June when the other full member Paraguay was suspended because of the removal of Fernando Lugo from the presidency.
Following the three presidents agreed the inclusion of Venezuela as full member of the block, which had been pending because of the refusal of the Paraguayan Senate to have Hugo Chavez in the trade block. Chavez’ original request dates from 2006.
Venezuela’s swearing into the bloc makes it the first country to join the bloc since it was founded in 1991.
“I still remember the small minded sponsors who were against the inclusion of Venezuela”, and who argued that “it was not convenient to be part of Mercosur because Brazil would gobble us” given its size.
Cristina Fernandez then turned to Chavez and said that “your solitude was not personal or government solitude, it was political and cultural solitude from our region in South America” and immediately recalled that “Nestor Kirchner and Lula da Silva always dreamt of this happening”.
The Argentine president then criticized “developed countries” blaming them for the current global “financial insecurity”.
“I’ve read that the idea of capping the price of our commodities has resurfaced as if we were endangering global food security. Let us tell them to be at ease that we can provide food security because the world is in this condition not because of the soybeans, or because of wheat or corn, but rather because of the financial insecurity which those same developed countries generated”, said Cristina Fernandez.
She added that “we are going to produce more and better food, but what we are demanding is financial security, an end to fiscal havens, and end to double speech”.
With Venezuela Mercosur “closes the equation” in the regional block “because it is energy, food, minerals, knowledge, aggregate value, industrialization, know-how that we are now going to share”.
President Chavez said that with the incorporation of Venezuela “the new period of the accelerated history we are building has been opened”, which will mean “historic changes” for the region.
“We are where we should have always been, Venezuela’s inclusion in Mercosur was long overdue, but everything that is to happen has its moment”, said Chavez.
“We have come to Mercosur with all our wishes for a full integration” and to make this block “a mechanism of integration which goes beyond trade, which means social integration”, he added.
Finally Chavez said that Mercosur must be seen as “the largest locomotive to preserve our independence and to guarantee our integral development”.
“As of today Venezuela belongs to one of the most powerful blocks in the world which concentrates 300 million people and a GDP of over 3tn dollars,” rich in resources, energy and know-how.