Mexican marines raided a small community in the northern state of Durango and opened fired on homes with no known reason, while two young males were forcibly disappeared, neighbors told Sinaloan newspaper RioDoce.
“The troops of the Ministry of the Navy arrived in the community of El Verano and began firing at houses,” the witness said, according to RioDoce.
The newspaper said the El Verano inhabitant told them that about 15 families live in the community, still “besieged” by the marines.
The unidentified person that spoke with RioDoce said they were unaware if there were any victims, but said they saw a funeral home hearse driving through the small community.
Those forcibly disappeared were identified as Jesus Felix and his cousin Octavio Almodovar.
RioDoce said there were unconfirmed reports that a naval helicopter had been gunned down near El Verano.
A witness, identified as Lorena Silvas, said, “There are many complaints by people of other small communities near the municipality of Tamazula near El Verano, and they say there too many abuses being committed by the marines.”
Silvas said there are reports of marines carrying out raids on homes without search warrants, where they “take with them everything they find.”
The U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, called on the Mexican government Wednesday to remove all military forces from public safety operations.
Al-Hussein said that impunity in Mexico is extremely commonplace, with 98 percent of reported crimes never resolved and in most cases not even investigated. He also said that 151,233 people have been murdered in Mexico from December 2006 to August 2015, while over 27,000 remain disappeared.
In June, various news outlets reported that marines had fired on civilians — including minors — in Tamazula.
Cadena Cinco reported that marines attacked a family traveling in a vehicle during which at least two people died, according to local officials. The president of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights of Sinaloa, Leonel Aguirre, explained then that marines planted guns on various young males to justify the attack and deaths.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne said that “evidence of heavy-handed police tactics” was “strong and disconcerting” after a 2011 clash with student protestors from Ayotzinapa normal school left two youths and a gas station employee dead and several others wounded, according to a declassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Authorities in the Mexican state of Guerrero “reacted defensively and insensitively by blaming the victims and denying any responsibility” for their part in what the Embassy cable called a “chaotic student protest” in which “both police and protestors resorted to violent tactics.”
The newly-declassified cable was obtained by the National Security Archive under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and was the focus of an article published today by the award-winning team of investigative journalists at Mexico’s Aristegui Noticias.
The deadly 2011 incident against students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa came less than three years before 43 students from the university were disappeared and six others were killed after being detained by police forces in Iguala, Guerrero on the night of September 25-26, 2014. More than a year later, the federal government’s theory about what happened that night lies in ruins, and the families of the victims are no closer to knowing the fates of their loved ones.
Last month, a group of independent investigators invited by the Mexican government and appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States rejected the government’s version of the 2014 case, which held that a cabal of local politicians, municipal police forces and members of a drug gang had kidnapped and killed the students before burning the bodies at a garbage dump. The group of experts said the government lacked physical evidence connecting the alleged perpetrators to the case, that security forces had tortured many of the witnesses, and that a fire in which the government claims the bodies were burned could not have happened.
The 2011 Embassy document describes how “about 500” students from Ayotzinapa and allied organizations blocked a tollbooth along a federal highway near the city of Chilpancingo and demanded a meeting with Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero to discuss deteriorating conditions at the state-funded school. Both state and federal police participated in the ensuing confrontation.
State and Federal authorities were “pointing fingers,” said Wayne, with both sides accusing the other of firing the shots the killed the two students. “Regardless of who is responsible for the deaths, the evidence of heavy-handed police tactics is strong and disconcerting,” Ambassador Wayne said in his comments.
Governor Aguirre, who later resigned in the wake of the 2014 student disappearances, was taking steps “to control the political damage,” according to Wayne. “The case is being investigated by state and federal authorities and Aguirre and his collaborators will be under immense pressure to conduct a thorough investigation, though results are not expected anytime soon.”
In 2012, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) found that government agents were responsible for numerous human rights violations in the 2011 incident, including arbitrary detentions, torture, cruel treatment and beatings.
Two Guerrero state agents were later investigated for the shootings but were released after 16 months in detention when a judge found the evidence against them insufficient. The then-prosecutor of Guerrero, Alberto López Rosas, who was accused by CNDH of covering up the crime, was exonerated in 2013 and went back to work for Governor Aguirre. The head of the federal police at that time, Facundo Rosas Rosas, who was also accused of abuses during the 2011 confrontation, was later removed from his post but continued as Secretary of Public Security in the state of Pueblo before it was announced that he was under investigation for leading a criminal group that had systematically stolen fuel from the state oil company, Pemex.
Mexico’s Defense Secretary said Monday night that he will not let the nation’s soldiers be questioned by international investigators over the apparent abduction and massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa last year.
“I can’t permit them to interrogate my soldiers, who at this point haven’t committed a single crime,” said Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos in an interview with the Televisa network. He said the soldiers only answer to Mexican authorities.
His comments came after two separate reports, published last month, contradicted government claims that soldiers were not in the area when, a little over a year ago, dozens of students at Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero went missing. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, and the Mexican magazine Proceso conducted separate investigations that both found soldiers were in fact present at the time of the incident.
IACHR investigators have criticized the government’s investigation of the disappearance and have sought to interview the soldiers who they say were present. Meanwhile, a report from the magazine Proceso revealed that bullet casings from weapons carried by the Mexican army were found at the crime scene.
“We received the order from [name redacted]: ‘arm yourselves, we’re going out,’” one soldier said in a deposition with Mexican prosecutors that was obtained by the magazine. “He told us, ‘get [expletive] ready because there’s armed personnel that are going around killing people.”
The Mexican government has already conceded a state role in the incident, accusing Jose Luis Abarca, mayor of the town of Iguala, of ordering local police to kidnap the students and hand them over to a local gang to be killed. Tomás Zerón de Lucio, head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigations Agency, has claimed the students were mistakenly identified as members of a rival criminal organization. “That was the reason why they were deprived of their freedom, initially, and then of their lives,” he said in January.
The IAHCR report accuses the army of having witnessed the events as they unfolded and failing to intervene. The report in Proceso suggests soldiers actually fired on the students, perhaps mistaking them for criminals.
The Mexican government’s refusal to allow members of its military to be interviewed by international investigators comes just days after Mexicans marked the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco square massacre, when soldiers and police fired into a crowded of unarmed protesters in Mexico City days before the start of the Olympic Games. Witnesses reported seeing dozens of dead bodies. Hundreds of people were arrested, many never to be seen again.
After decades of denying any wrongdoing, the Mexican government conceded there was a systemic cover-up and in 2006 accused former President Luis Echeverría, the interior secretary, of having organized the massacre, charging him with genocide. He was found not guilty.
Journalist John Gibler investigates the disappearance of the 43 students at Ayotzinapa.
A year has passed and we still do not know the fate of the 43 rural college students from Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014 in Iguala, Mexico.
We do know now, however, more than we did last year. We know that the police attacks against the students lasted more than three hours, took place at nine different locations in and around Iguala, involved officers from municipal, state and federal police corps, resulted in six people murdered, 40 wounded—one of whom remains in a coma—, and 43 disappeared.
We also know that the government has amassed a case file totaling 115 volumes and accused 82 people, but mostly based their investigation on three mutually contradicting confessions.
A recent report by an independent group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the group is known in Mexico as the GIEI for their Spanish initials—debunked the government’s conclusion that gangsters confused the students for members of a rival drug trafficking gang, sent the Iguala police to capture and hand them over, and then drove them out to an isolated trash dump in near-by Cocula, killed them and incinerated their bodies on a trash and wood pyre that burned until 5 pm local time the following day.
The GIEI’s fire expert, José Torero, a Peruvian with a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, concluded that to generate the heat necessary to incinerate 43 human bodies at the Cocula trash dump, the fire would have needed 30,000kg of wood, 60 hours to burn and would have raged so high as to have set the entire dump and surrounding forest aflame creating a plume of smoke 300 meters in the air and radiated such intense heat that anyone who approached close enough to throw more fuel on the fire—as the confessed witnesses claim they did—would themselves have been singed beyond recognition.
I traveled to the Cocula dump several times over the past year. Twice I spoke with Cocula municipal trash workers. The two men who worked on Saturday, Sept. 27 last year both told me that they went to the dump around one in the afternoon—when the killers’ fire would have still been blazing—and deposited the trash there without incident. There was no fire. No one was there, they said, and the area was still wet from the previous night’s rain.
After Marcela Turati published in Proceso magazine in October 2014 that the dump was still in use after Sept. 26, the workers told me that federal agents went to their homes, took them to Mexico City and threatened to send them to maximum security prison if they didn’t “stop telling lies.” One of the workers said that he clearly told the federal agents he is unable to read or write and still was forced to put his thumb print on “countless sheets of paper.”
The GIEI’s conclusion that the 43 students were not incinerated at the Cocula trash dump on Sept. 27, 2014 is thus supported not only by forensic analysis, but by two eyewitnesses (not to mention hundreds of Cocula residents who could not recall seeing high plumes of smoke in late September). Yet the government insists on pushing the Cocula theory, twisting and ignoring evidence, as in Attorney General Arely Gómez’s recent false claim that a second student’s remains had been positively identified.
This insistence on the trash dump scenario has diverted attention from witness testimony and documentary evidence of Guerrero state and Mexican federal police participation in the attacks against the students. Over the past year, I interviewed more than 30 survivors of the attacks in Iguala. Several witnesses identified state and federal police participating in the attacks at four distinct locations over a period of several hours.
The GIEI report confirmed these testimonies, though that confirmation has largely been unreported, overshadowed by the debate over the trash dump.
The GIEI report goes further, citing testimony from the case file by two civilian-dressed military intelligence officers who told state officials that they observed the attacks at the two locations from which the 43 were disappeared. These facts alone—state and federal police participation in and military observation of the attacks—undermine the federal prosecutor’s story of gangsters confusing the students for a rival gang.
The GIEI report also revealed major flaws in the government’s investigation: crime scenes that were never analyzed; suspects that were very likely tortured; essential witnesses never interviewed; security camera footage of one of the sites of the forced disappearance that was retrieved and destroyed by an unidentified official; clothing found at the crimes scenes that was never analyzed; and, perhaps most astoundingly, a missing bus.
For months both the Mexican government and the press reported that police attacked the students aboard four commandeered buses. That is incorrect: the students travelled aboard five commandeered buses that night. This fact is of fundamental importance first, because police took the 43 disappeared students from two buses (not one, as originally reported) at two distinct locations in Iguala.
At one of those locations—beneath an overpass, just in front of the Iguala office of the Guerrero state prosecutors—numerous witnesses identified federal police participating in the disappearances.
The location of the bus from which the police took them is visible from the very security camera from which the footage of that night was mysteriously retrieved and destroyed. It is also important because the GIEI report revealed that the other bus at that location, what they call the fifth bus, about 100 meters away from the overpass, is missing.
When the experts asked to see that bus, they were led to an entirely different one, made up to look like it had been attacked. The problem, though, is that that particular bus was not attacked: federal police aiming their weapons at them confronted the students, who then got off the bus and escaped into the surrounding hills. When the GIEI proved that the other bus was not the one they were looking for, federal officials were unable to produce the now famous “fifth bus.”
This conspicuous absence both in the case file and in real life led the GIEI to propose a possible motive to explain the complexity of the attacks and the overwhelmingly disproportionate use of violence against the students that night: the sandal and t- shirt-clad young men from some of Mexico’s most destitute regions had unwittingly commandeered a bus carrying a major heroin shipment en route to the United States.
If this hypothesis were to be proved true, it would be a searing indictment of both Mexico and the United State’s so-called war on drugs. For here we would have a case showing that when a major drug load is placed at risk, whom do its caretakers call to save it? The State. Not just the local “corrupt” cops, but also the state and federal police all acting in coordination and with military intelligence watching on. This would give new meaning to the Ayotzinapa protesters’ constant chant: Fue el estado, (The State did it).
John Gibler is the author of Mexico: Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt.
teleSUR report ends
Science Repudiates Mass Cremation Stories
A protester at a rally against the disappearance of 43 students in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero holds a sign that reads: ‘We Are Ayotzinapa. We Demand Justice.’
Credit: Montecruz Foto/CC-BY-SA-2.0
A group of independent investigators has roundly dismissed the Mexican government’s claims that the 43 students who went missing in the southwestern city of Iguala last fall were burned to ashes in a garbage dump, reigniting an international outcry against the disappearance and heaping pressure on the government to provide answers to families of the victims.
The 500-page report released this past weekend by an expert group appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) refutes key aspects of the government’s official story, concluding in no uncertain terms that there is “no evidence” to support the Attorney General’s findings that the college students were executed and burned by a drug gang.
“This report provides an utterly damning indictment of Mexico’s handling of the worst human rights atrocity in recent memory,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a Sep. 6 statement.
“Even with the world watching and with substantial resources at hand, the authorities proved unable or unwilling to conduct a serious investigation,” he added.
HRW is calling on the government to urgently address its own flawed investigation, which was declared ‘closed’ this past January, and bring those responsible to justice.
The students, all members of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state, disappeared on Sep. 26, 2014.
Amid massive protests across the country and around the world, the government concluded that the students had commandeered several buses and traveled in them to a protest in Iguala. Following clashes with local police, the students were allegedly detained and then handed over to a criminal gang, who presumably executed them before burning their bodies in a municipal dump.
But the IACHR investigators say those “conclusions hinge on allegedly coerced witness testimony that is contradicted by physical evidence,” HRW said Sunday.
Negligence, mishandling of evidence and long delays marked the government’s official investigation, the expert panel found, adding that federal prosecutors failed to review footage from security cameras or interview key eyewitnesses.
HRW points out that “crucial pieces of evidence, such as blood and hair” were vulnerable to contamination and manipulation during the investigation, and “in July 2015, more than nine months into the investigation, the group discovered that multiple articles of clothing belonging to the victims had been collected but never examined.”
Perhaps the most damning revelation involves the government’s claim that the drug gang responsible for the students’ deaths built a pyre and fed it over a 16-hour period with scrap material like wood and tires, as well as small amounts of fuel.
Quoting the IACHR study, the Guardian reported Sunday: “It would have required 30,000 kg of wood or 13,330 kg of rubber tyres and burned for 60 hours in order to consume the bodies. [The report] adds that feeding the pyre would have been impossible, and that a conflagration of those dimensions would have left obvious evidence in the surrounding area, which an inspection of the site failed to find.”
Other major flaws in the government’s official version of events include so-called ‘confessions’ extracted from suspects under conditions likely amounting to torture and authorities’ failure to inspect the offices of members of municipal police identified by eyewitnesses.
The expert panel spent six months on the investigation, reviewing existing government evidence, conducting in-depth inspections of the crime scene and interviewing surviving witnesses and family members of the deceased.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearance highlighted shortcomings in the government’s investigation of the Ayotzinapa case, and called on the government to do more to tackle impunity.
HRW estimates that there are currently 300 open investigations relating to enforced disappearances in Iguala alone, and over 25,000 people reported as ‘missing’ nationwide.
“As of April 2014, no one had been convicted of an enforced disappearance committed after 2006, according to official statistics,” the rights group concluded.
Holocaust Hoax: Science Repudiates Mass Cremation Stories
From Regional War, “Regime Change” to Global Warfare
2015 has become a year of living dangerously.
Wars are spreading across the globe.
Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity.
Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.
These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.
There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.
Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?
Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts
There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.
The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists – funded by the monarchist Gulf States.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.
Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.
The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.
The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.
The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.
The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.
Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.
Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.
Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.
Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.
There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role
The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.
Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.
US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.
There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.
The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.
The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.
As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.
Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.
In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.
Latin America – On the Verge
Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.
In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.
The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.
‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups – to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.
War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.
The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.
The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.
The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!
From Regional to Nuclear Wars
Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.
Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.
Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.
In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.
Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.
In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.
Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.
Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees
The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.
Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.
Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.
Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.
Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.
The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.
As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.
Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.
Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.
The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…
War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.
Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!
Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.
Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US [Israel] and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.
As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?
The war epidemic is not receding.
War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.
Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.
Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.
Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.
What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is time to wake up!
It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!
Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!
Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose…!”
Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.
What is to be done?
When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?
Earlier this summer, Ruben Espinosa fled Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz after receiving death threats. His work as a photojournalist there had made him an enemy of the state’s governor, who presides over one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a reporter.
On July 31, Espinosa was found beaten and shot dead in a Mexico City apartment.
Eight months ago, Nadia Vera, a student activist and cultural worker, looked boldly into a camera lens and told an interviewer that if anything happened to her, Veracruz governor Javier Duarte and his cabinet should be held responsible. She also fled Veracruz to the nation’s capital after suffering attacks.
On July 31, Nadia Vera was found sexually tortured and murdered, shot point-blank in the same apartment.
Three more women were assassinated in the normally tranquil, upper-middle class neighborhood that afternoon — an 18 year-old Mexican named Yesenia Quiroz, a Colombian identified only as “Nicole,” and a 40 year-old domestic worker named Alejandra. The press generally refers to the case as “the murder of Ruben Espinosa and four women,” relegating the women victims to anonymity even in death.
At a recent demonstration of journalists and human rights defenders, the sense of dread was palpable. As communicators in Mexico, we’re angry and intensely frustrated at how so many of our ranks have been killed, disappeared, displaced, or censored with no repercussions.
For many, including me, this crime especially hit home. For a long time, whenever I was asked if I was afraid to speak out critically in Mexico, I answered that fortunately Mexico City was relatively safe. Drug cartels and their allies in government only kept close tabs on reporters in more disputed areas.
The quintuple homicide in a quiet corner of the city shattered that myth — and with it what was left of our complacency. Several days before his murder, Espinosa told friends that a man had approached him to ask if he was the photographer who fled Veracruz. When he said yes, the man replied, “You should know that we’re here.”
Once considered a haven, Mexico City has become a hunting ground in a country where, too often, journalists end up reporting on the brutal assassinations of their colleagues — and wondering who will be next.
Ruben Espinosa had photographed social movements in the state of Veracruz for the past eight years, including journalists’ protests over the murder of Regina Martinez in 2012, a journalist and colleague of Espinosa at Proceso magazine. He covered the protests against the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa by local police in Guerrero and acts of repression by the Veracruz state government.
Espinosa captured a front-page photo of Governor Duarte, big-bellied and wearing a police cap, which appeared on the cover of Proceso alongside the title: “Veracruz, a Lawless State.” Espinosa noted that the governor was so enraged by the photo he had his agents obtain and destroy as many copies of the magazine as they could get their hands on. He reported that while he was taking pictures of the eviction of protesters, a government agent told him, “You better stop taking pictures or you´ll end up like Regina.”
The Mexican Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression recognizes 102 journalists murdered from 2000 to 2014.
Yet the Mexico City prosecutor didn’t even mention the threats and attacks against Nadia Vera, an activist and a member of the student organization YoSoy132, as a line of investigation in her murder. The UN High Commission on Human Rights in Mexico stated that Vera and the other female victims found with Espinosa showed signs of sexual torture. Mexico City investigators announced that they were applying investigative protocols for possible femicides, but didn’t say why or confirm the reports of rape and sexual torture.
The invisibility of the women victims in the press and the official statements has been partially compensated for by social media. In social networks, millions of posts and tweets have brought to light the lives of the women, and especially Nadia’s more public and activist past, in an impromptu campaign that insists that women’s lives also matter.
Signs of a Cover-Up?
Now, just days into the investigation, with the nation — and especially journalists — reeling from the news, there are already signs of a cover-up.
On August 2, Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Rios gave a press conference reporting on advances in the case. Although Rios promised to pursue all lines of investigation, he downplayed the possibility that this could be a political crime against freedom of expression, claiming that Espinosa was not currently employed.
Rios also stated that the photojournalist came to Mexico City to look for work — a thinly veiled attempt to pre-empt the dead journalist’s own version of the facts that he was forced to leave Veracruz due to ongoing persecution. The city attorney’s office has put forth robbery as the principal motive of the crime, despite the execution-style torture and killings, and hasn’t called on anyone from the Veracruz government to provide testimony.
These are signs that the city government may be trying to railroad the investigation, and they’ve outraged the public, especially journalists. The attorney general’s absurd claim that Espinosa was unemployed at the time of his murder, seemingly suggesting that his journalistic work wasn’t a motive, caused particular indignation.
On August 5, investigators announced that they’d arrested and were questioning a suspect based on a match with a fingerprint found in the apartment. Despite apparent advances, there’s a growing fear that the government has no intention of really investigating a crime that could lead straight to a powerful member of the president’s own party.
The U.S. Role
The involvement of the Mexican government in the crime itself, or at least in creating the climate that led to the crime and failing to prevent it, raises serious questions for U.S. policymakers as well. The watchdog organization Article 19 reports that nearly half of the aggressions against journalists registered were carried out by state agents.
Since 2008, the U.S. government — through the Merida Initiative and other sources — has provided some $3 billion to the Mexican government for the war on drugs. This is a period when attacks on human rights defenders and journalists have skyrocketed, and more than 100,000 people have been killed by criminals and security forces alike.
A fraction of that money has gone to mechanisms for protection that have so far proved worthless. Rather than helping, this serves to support the false idea that the Mexican state is the good guy in a war on organized crime. The cases of corruption, complicity, and abuse that pile up week by week have demolished this premise.
Supporting abusive governments and security forces while claiming to support the journalists and human rights defenders being attacked by them is like pretending to help the fox while arming the hunter — it just prolongs the hunt. Mexican citizens who speak up are being hunted, too often by their own government. It’s time the U.S. government came to grips with that and immediately suspended the Merida Initiative.
Until there is accountability and justice — and an end to the murder of those who tell the truth about what’s happening here — sending U.S. taxpayer money to Mexican security forces is a vile betrayal of Mexicans’ friendship and of the highest principles of U.S. foreign policy.
Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS).
According to the Regional Security and Justice Coordinator and Popular Citizens Police (CRSJ-PCP), a municipal government in the violent Mexican state of Guerrero and local political party the Antorcha (Torch) Campesina, an offshoot of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), forcibly disappeared 20 people, including women and children.
“The enforced disappearances took place on Sunday and we hold municipal and state authorities responsible for the outcome of this incident,” reported the local nongovernmental organization.
According to CRSJ-PCP, the forced disappearances took place in San Antonio Coyahuacan in the Olinala municipality, about 100 miles southeast of Iguala, where the 43 Ayotzinapa students were attacked Sept. 16, 2014 and allegedly handed over to a drug gang.
San Antonio is also located 150 miles north of Acapulco, the third most dangerous city in the world. Fifteen people were killed in the city over the weekend, including activist Miguel Angel Jimenez, who led a search team looking for the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students and 257 other victims of forced disappearances.
“We fear for the lives of our comrades. The municipal government of Olinala says it has nothing to do with these disappearances, but its police brandish their AK-47s along with the Antorchista (members of the PRI Antorcha Campesina), who are the same anyway,” the organization said.
“These acts are repulsive and represent a stupid provocation, and if this is sanctioned by the state government then we are talking about political dementia,” the statement added.
The community group also accused the government of using Antorcha Campesina to carry out aggressions against the people, including forced disappearances.
Citlali Perez, leader of the CRSJ-PCP, called on the government to immediately release the 20 people forcibly disappeared.
The group said the local, state and federal government reject the existence of the local community police PCP. However, many argue they have increased security to a region that was deep in despair as a result of official negligence.
According to the CRSJ, the conflict in the region is also about land, as Antorcha Campesina wants to illegally take over the land commissioner’s office.
Outrage among journalists has spread across Mexico since the Sunday’s confirmation by the attorney general’s office that the body found in an apartment in Mexico City on Friday belongs to the photojournalist Ruben Espinosa.
Dozens of people are conducting protests across Mexico to demand justice in Espinosa’s case, but also to demand the government to take action and halt the attacks against journalists.
According to local press, Espinosa — whose body was identified by his relatives, authorities say — was killed along with his three female roommates and also the maid. The victims had been tied up and were shot in the head. The bodies showed signs of torture.
Espinosa had previously spoken out against the threats and harassment he received when working in the Mexican Gulf state of Veracruz, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous states for journalists.
Espinosa also worked with the weekly magazine Proceso, renowned in Mexico for its expositional reporting. The magazine has demanded authorities conduct a proper investigation into the crime to determine what happened and punish the perpetrators of the “heinous crime.”
Espinosa abandoned the state of Veracruz June 9, after saying that his life was at risk. He decided to “self-exile” in Mexico City, which he thought would be safer. In 2013, he had filed a lawsuit against the Security Secretariat of Veracruz.
In a recent interview with the free press website Sin Embargo, the late journalist said that, in Veracruz, he was not allowed to attend official events or even press conferences. This hostile attitude by the local authorities, according to Espinosa, came after Proceso published a picture of the state’s current governor, Javier Duarte, wearing a police cap, with the headline, “Veracruz, a lawless state.”
Duarte is from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. He took office in 2010 and since then 14 journalists have been killed or disappeared. Last month, during a public event to commemorate the Free Speech Week, the governor sent a message to the state’s journalists saying “Please behave, I beg you. It’s for your own good.”
According to the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Mexico ranked 148 out of 180 countries, making it one of the most dangerous countries in which to be a journalist.
In the wake of the shocking homicide of photojournalist Ruben Espinosa, figures released in February by Mexico’s attorney general’s office are worth revisiting.
Ruben Espinosa is one of over 100 journalists killed in Mexico in the last 15 years, according to official figures by the attorney general’s office, which show 25 more are missing.
The attorney general reported in February that 103 journalists had died since 2000, with the northern states of Chihuahua and Veracruz topping the list as the most deadly, with 16 journalist deaths each.
The Netherlands has just become the latest country, following Russia, Mexico, and many others, to say no to Monsanto. The sale and use of glyphosate-based herbicides (the most commonly used herbicides in the world) has just been banned for non-commercial use in the country, effective later this year. This means that people will no longer be able to spray RoundUp on their lawns and gardens and will instead have to find another (hopefully more natural) means of pest control.
This is definitely a step in the right direction.
The move comes as no surprise, considering that the number of countries around the world who are choosing to ban this product is growing at an exponential rate. Bans and restrictions are being implemented due to the fact that glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp) has been directly linked to several major health issues, including: birth defects, nervous system damage, Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, various forms of cancer, and kidney failure. (Sri Lanka recently cited deadly kidney disease as their reason for banning his product. You can read more about that and access the research here.) Indeed, The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the fact that glyphosate can cause cancer, and you can read more about that here.
Not only that, there are multiple environmental concerns associated with the use of this chemical.
What’s even more disturbing is the fact that studies have shown that RoundUp herbicide is over one hundred times more toxic than regulators claim. For example, a new study published in the journal Biomedical Research International shows that Roundup herbicide is 125 times more toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate studied in isolation. You can read more about that here. The eye opening abstract reads as follows:
“Pesticides are used throughout the world as mixtures called formulations. They contain adjuvants, which are often kept confidential and are called inerts by the manufacturing companies, plus a declared active principle, which is usually tested alone. We tested the toxicity of 9 pesticides, comparing active principles and their formulations, on three human cell lines. Glyphosate, isoproturon, fluroxypyr, pirimicarb, imidacloprid, acetamiprid, tebuconazole, epoxiconazole, and prochloraz constitute, respectively, the active principles of 3 major herbicides, 3 insecticides, and 3 fungicides. Despite its relatively benign reputation, Roundup was among the most toxic herbicides and insecticides tested. Most importantly, 8 formulations out of 9 were up to one thousand times more toxic than their active principles. Our results challenge the relevance of the acceptable daily intake for pesticides because this norm is calculated from the toxicity of the active principle alone. Chronic tests on pesticides may not reflect relevant environmental exposures if only one ingredient of these mixtures is tested alone.” (source)
Equally disturbing is the fact that RoundUp has been found in a very high percentage of air and rainfall test samples. You can read more about that here.
Significant concentrations of it have also been found in the urine of people across Europe, you can read more about that here.
One recent study published in the Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology has now proven that animals and humans who consume GMO foods – those that are loaded with glyphosate chemicals, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp – have extremely high levels of glyphosate in their urine.
It’s also noteworthy to mention that there are Wikileaks documents showing how the United States planned to “retaliate and cause pain” on countries who were refusing GMOs. You can read more about that story and view those documents here.
It’s troubling to think that so many children are within proximity of and playing on lawns that have been sprayed with this stuff. Cancer is not a mystery, it is not a stroke of bad luck, it’s time for the world to wake up and realize what research has been confirming for years.
More Information on Pesticides & Herbicides Here:
**There are also multiple articles linked within the article above that provide more information**
Guaranteed profits—at any price
Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama told beltway bullhorn Chris Matthews that Senator Elizabeth Warren was “wrong” about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest trade deal in American history, linking United States and Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam in a pervasive and binding treaty. The president was referring to Warren’s claim that the trade treaty will license corporations to sue governments, and her contention that this was, to put it mildly, a bad idea.
Warren isn’t wrong, Obama is. And he knows it. The entire TPP, as understood, is based on a single overarching idea: that regulation must not hinder profiteering. This is a fundamentally anti-democratic concept that—if implemented—would effectively eliminate the power of a demos to make its own law. The final authority on any law’s validity would rest elsewhere, beyond the reach of popular sovereignty. From the TPP point-of-view, democracy is just another barrier to trade, and the corporate forces behind the draft treaty are intent on removing that barrier. Simple as that.
That’s why the entire deal has been negotiated in conclave, deliberately beyond the public purview, since the president and his trade representatives know that exposing the deal to the unforgiving light of popular scrutiny would doom it to failure. That’s why the president, like his mentor President Clinton, has lobbied hard for Trade Promotion Authority, or Fast Track, which reduces the Congressional role in the passage of the bill to a ‘yea’ or ‘nay.’
Cracks have begun to show in the formidable cloak behind which the deal has been structured. A coalition of advocacy groups advanced on the U.S. Trade Representatives office this week. Wikileaks has obtained and released chapters from the draft document. Senator Harry Reid declared his position on Fast Track as “… not only no, but hell no.” Warren has proved to be a persistent thorn in the side of White House efforts to smooth over troubling issues with the deal. But the monied interests that rule the beltway have all pressed for passage. And as a Fast Track draft makes its way through Congress, stakes are high. The TPP is, in the apt estimation of political activist Jim Hightower, a “corporate coup d’état.”
Not for the first time, the president and his Republican enemies are yoked by the bipartisan appeal of privilege against this faltering fence of protest. The marriage of convenience was described in last Friday’s sub-head to a New York Times article on TPP: “G.O.P. Is Allied With President Against His Own Party.”
All The Usual Suspects
Who else supports the TPP? Aside from this odd confection of neoliberals, the corporations that rule the beltway feverishly back the TPP. From the leak of Sony digital data we learn that it and its media peers have enthusiastically pressed for the passage of the deal. Sony is joined by major agricultural beneficiaries (Monsanto), mining companies like Infinito Gold, currently suing Costa Rica to keep an ecology-harming mine pit active, as well as pharmaceutical coalitions negotiating stiff intellectual property rights unpopular even in Congress, and various other technology and consumer goods groups. And don’t forget nicotine kingpins like Philip Morris.
Obama reinforces the corporate line: “We have the opportunity to open even more new markets to goods and services backed by three proud words: Made in America.” Perhaps he isn’t aware that our leading export is the workforce that once took pride in that moniker. We’ve exported five million manufacturing jobs since 1994, largely thanks to NAFTA, the model on which the TPP is built. The TPP will only continue that sad trend. The only jobs not being offshored are the ones that can’t be: bartenders and waitresses and health care assistants. That’s the Obama economy: a surfeit of low-wage service jobs filled by debt-saddled degree holders. As Paul Craig Roberts argued in The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, between 2007 and 2014, some eight million students would graduate from American universities and likely seek jobs in the United States. A mere one million degree-requiring jobs would await them. The irony of Obama’s statement is that the TPP would actually move to strip the use of labels like, “Buy American,” since they unduly advocate for local goods.
In truth, the authors of the treaty already know all this. The bill concedes as much, with Democrats building in some throwaway provisions of unspecified aid to workers whose jobs have been offshored, and a tax credit to ostensibly help those ex-workers purchase health insurance. Cold comfort for the jobless, as they are exhorted by the gutless paladins of globalization to ‘toughen up’ and deal with the harsh realities of a globalized economy. As neoliberal stooge Thomas Friedman has said, companies in the glorious global marketplace never hire before they ask, “Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer?” Of course, the answer is invariably no, so the job goes to Bangladesh or a robot. No moral equation ever enters the picture. Just market discipline for the vulnerable and ingenious efforts by a captive state to shelter capital from the market dynamics it would force on others.
The Investment Chapter
Despite Obama’s disingenuous clichés about “… fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open Internet,” the trade deal makes it clear that labor law and environmental law are both barriers to profitability. We know this thanks to Wikileaks, which once again proved its inestimable value by acquiring and releasing another chapter from the cloak-and-dagger negotiations. This time it was the investment chapter, in which so much of the treaty’s raison d’etre is expressed.
As Public Citizen points out in its lengthy analysis of the chapter, any domestic policy that infringes on an investor’s “right” to a regulatory framework that conforms to their “expectations,” is grounds for a suit. Namely, the suit may be pressed to “the extent to which the government action interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations.”
Here’s what the TPP says about such legislation as it relates to investor expectations:
For greater certainty, whether an investor’s investment-backed expectations are reasonable depends, to the extent relevant, on factors such as whether the government provided the investor with binding written assurances and the nature and extent of governmental regulation or the potential for government regulation in the relevant sector.
Try putting that tax on financial transactions. Forget it. Barrier to a reasonable return. Don’t believe it? Just read the TPP investment protocols that would ban capital controls, which is what a financial tax is considered to be by TPP proponents. Try passing that environmental legislation. Not a chance. Hindrance to maximum shareholder value. Just ask Germany how it felt when a Swiss company sued it for shutting down its nuclear industry after Fukushima. Try enacting that youth safety law banning tobacco advertising. Sorry. Needless barrier to profits. Just ask Australia, which is being sued by Philip Morris for trying to protect kids from tar and nicotine.
Public Citizen has tabulated that, “The TPP would newly empower about 9,000 foreign-owned firms in the United States to launch ISDS cases against the U.S. government, while empowering more than 18,000 additional U.S.-owned firms to launch ISDS cases against other signatory governments.” It found that “foreign investors launched at least 50 ISDS claims each year from 2011 through 2013, and another 42 claims in 2014.” If these numbers seem small, recall that for a crucial piece of labor legislation to be struck down, only one firm need win in arbitration in order to financially hamstring a government and set a precedent that would likely ice the reformist urge of future legislatures.
As noted earlier, the text also appears to suggest to ban the practice of promoting domestic goods over foreign—another hurdle to shareholder value. This would effectively prohibit a country from implementing an import-substitution economy without threat of being sued. Governments would be relieved of tools, like tariffs, historically used to protect fledgling native industries. This is exactly what IMF prescriptions often produce—agricultural reforms, for instance, that wipe out native crop production and substitute for it the production of, say, cheap Arabica coffee beans, for export to the global north. Meanwhile, that producer nation must then accept costly IMF lending regimes to pay to import food it might have grown itself.
Of course, it is rarely mentioned that protectionism is how the United States and Britain both built their industrial economies. Or that removing competitor market protections is how they’ve exploited developing economies ever since. The TPP would effectively lock in globalization. It’s a wedge that forces markets open to foreign trade—the textual equivalent of Commodore Perry sailing his gunships into Tokyo Harbor.
The bill’s backers point to language in which natural resources, human and animal life, and public welfare are all dutifully addressed in the document. The leaked chapter explicitly says that it is not intended to prevent laws relating to these core concerns from being implemented. So then, what’s the problem? The problem is that these tepid inclusions lack the teeth of sanctions or punitive fines. They are mere rhetorical asides designed to help corporate Democrats rationalize their support of the TPP. If lawmakers really cared about the public welfare, they’d move to strip the treaty of its various qualifiers that privilege trade over domestic law. By all means, implement your labor protection, but just ensure “… that such measures are not applied in an arbitrary or unjustifiable manner, or do not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade or investment.”
If lawmakers cared about national sovereignty, they wouldn’t outsource dispute settlement to unelected arbitration panels, more fittingly referred to as, “tribunals.” (Think of scrofulous democracy hunched in the dock, peppered with unanswerable legalese by a corporate lawyer, a surreal twist on the Nuremberg Trials.) Just have a glance at Section B of the investment chapter. Suits will be handled using the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) model, itself predicated on the tribunal precedent. And in the event a government lost a suit or settled one, legal costs would be picked up by taxpayers, having been fleeced by an unelected committee whose laws it has no recourse to challenge.
Perhaps investor protections like ISDS were once intended to encourage cross-border investment by affording companies a modicum of reassurance that their investments would be safeguarded by international trade law. But the ISDS has been used for far more than that. The ISDS tribunals have a lovely track record of success (first implemented in a treaty between Germany and Pakistan in 1959). Here’s Public Citizen:
Under U.S. “free trade” agreements (FTAs) alone, foreign firms have already pocketed more than $440 million in taxpayer money via investor-state cases. This includes cases against natural resource policies, environmental protections, health and safety measures and more. ISDS tribunals have ordered more than $3.6 billion in compensation to investors under all U.S. FTAs and Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). More than $38 billion remains in pending ISDS claims under these pacts, nearly all of which relate to environmental, energy, financial regulation, public health, land use and transportation policies.
New Era, New Priorities
Now the ISDS is a chisel being used to destroy the regulatory function of governments. All of this is being negotiated by corporate trade representatives and their government lackeys, which appear to have no qualms about the deleterious effects the TPP will have on the general population. But then the corporations these suits represent have long since discarded any sense of patriotic duty to their native nation-states, and with it any obligation to regulate their activities to protect vulnerable citizenries. That loyalty has been replaced by a pitiless commitment to profits. In America, there may have been a time when “what was good for Ford was good for America,” as memorably put by Henry Ford. But not anymore. Now what’s good for shareholders is good for Ford. This was best articulated a couple of years ago by former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, who bluntly reminded an interviewer, “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.” Those decisions usually include offshoring, liberalizing the labor market, practicing labor arbitrage, relocating production to “business friendly climates” with lax regulatory structures, the most vulpine forms of tax evasion, and so on—all practices that ultimately harm the American worker.
Apple says it feels no obligation to solve America’s problems nor, one would assume, any gratitude to the U.S. taxpayer for funding essential research that Apple brilliantly combined in the iPod and iPhone. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich finally admits corporations don’t want Americans to make higher wages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce encourages shipping American jobs abroad. World Bank chiefs point to the economic logic of sending toxic waste to developing nations. Wherever you look, there seems to be little if any concern for citizenry.
The Financial Times refers to ISDS as, “investor protection.” But what it really is, is a profitability guarantee, a legal bulwark against democracy expressed as regulation. Forgive me for thinking that navigating a fluid legislative environment was a standard investment risk. Evidently the champions of free trade can’t be bothered to practice it. Still the White House croons that it has our best interests at heart. If that were true, it would release the full text, launch public charettes to debate its finer points, or perhaps just stage a referendum asking the American people to forfeit their hard-won sovereignty. No such thing will ever happen, of course. As it turns out, democracy is the price of corporate plunder. After all, the greatest risk of all is that the mob might vote the wrong way. And, as the language of the TPP makes explicitly obvious, there are some risks that should be avoided at all costs.
Jason Hirthler can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caracas – According to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Venezuela reduced its military budget by 34 percent in 2014, leading the the region in arms spending cuts.
Venezuela is followed by Uruguay, which decreased its military spending by 11 percent over the past year.
In contrast, United States political allies Paraguay and Mexico led the region in upping military spending, raising their military budgets by 13 and 11 percent, respectively.
Brazil, which is the largest arms spender in Latin America and the tenth largest in the world, cut its military budget by 1.7 percent due to economic difficulties.
The Americas remains the region with the highest military spending, a fact undoubtedly attributable to the presence of the United States, which, despite a modest budget cut of 6.5 percent, retains its spot as the world’s top arms spender.
With an annual military budget of $610 billion, the US accounts for one-third of global spending, amounting to more than triple the budget of the second highest spender, China.
Nonetheless, this enormous disparity in spending has not prevented the US from branding Venezuela a menace to its neighbors, on numerous occasions.
In 2009, then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accused Venezuela of fomenting an “arms race” with its purchase of Russian weapons. That same year, Venezuela led the region in cutting military spending, slashing its arms budget by one-quarter.
Last month, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order labeling Venezuela a “national security threat”, a move which has been vociferously condemned by a host of countries and multilateral blocs across the globe.