Progressive Calendar 04.18.08
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2008 20:24:21 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    04.18.08

1. NOW/immigrants   4.19 8:30am FergusFalls MN
2. Choice           4.19 8:30am
3. EarthDay/FarmMkt 4.19 10am
4. MPIRG issues     4.19 10am
5. End of empire/f  4.19 10:30am
6. NWN4P Mkta       4.19 11am
7. Free plants      4.19 11am
8. Homeless out?    4.19 12noon
9. Env action       4.19 1pm
10. Northtown vigil 4.19 2pm
11. Energy problem  4.19 2pm
12. Palestine       4.19 5pm
13. Peace site      4.19 6pm
14. Cuba/Mexico/CTV 4.19 9pm

15. Robert Weissman - Philip Morris' new plans to spread death and disease
16. John Ross       - Losing Latin America: the Bush legacy
17. James Petras    - Venezuela: democracy, socialism and imperialism  pt1

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From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: NOW/immigrants 4.19 8:30am FergusFalls MN

Saturday, April 19: Minnesota NOW. Annual State Conference: Immigrant
Women - Then & NOW. AmericInn, 526 Western Avenue, Fergus Falls. 8:30
AM-4 PM. Morning Keynote Address: A History of Immigration in Otter Tail
County by Melissa Hermes, Otter Tail County Historical Society Education
Coordinator. Afternoon Keynote Address: Immigrants in a Small Community
with Joan Jarvis Ellison, freelance writer, graduate degree in
biophysical sciences & works with the immigrant community in Pelican
Rapids. $15-$50. More info: 651/222-1605.

--------2 of 17--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Choice 4.19 8:30am

April 19: Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. "Keeping
It Real", a Faith Based Model for Teen Dialogue on Sex & Sexuality
Facilitator Training. 8:30 AM-4:30 PM at the Minnesota Women's Building,
St. Paul. Free. Continental Breakfast & lunch are provided. More info.

--------3 of 17--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: EarthDay/FarmMkt 4.19 10am

Meet the farmers who grow the foods you love!
To celebrate Earth Day, Farm in the Market will have these
farmers/producers in store & doing sampling/ demos on Saturday April 19th:
10:00 - 4:00pm:

*Dave & Florence Minar - Cedar Summit Dairy
*Jim & LeAnn VanDerPol - Pastures A' Plenty pork
*Todd Lien - Thousand hills Cattle Co.
*Larry Schultz- Schultz organic eggs & chicken
*Alan Callister - Callister Farm
*Catherin Friend & Melissa Peteler - Rising Moon lamb
*Representative of - Hope Creamery
*Joe Sherman - Northern Lights Foods - Blue cheese
*Steven Reed - Shepherds Way - cheese
*Sandy Hall - Talking Oak Farm - Honey
*Doris Schleusner - Nanny Pops pop corn
*Star Prairie Trout
*Brad Donnay - Donnay cheese
*North Star Bison
*Laurie McCann ? Golden Fig
*Venison America

FITM will also have representatives on hand from Slow Food Minnesota and
The Land Stewardship Project to discuss public policy, connecting to local
producers of good, clean, fair food and what you can do to help support
the local foods initiative.

Farm in the Market will be sponsoring cooking demos throughout the day. We
are honored to have three of the Twin Cities best chefs who are well known
for promoting and supporting small local farmers. They are:
 *Jenny Breen is a professional chef and nutrition educator in the Twin
Cities. She has been working with issues of local sustainable food for
over 20 years and is also working to develop more access to healthy food
and nutrition education for all people. She also co-owns one of the only
sustainable and green catering companies in the Midwest. She also teaches
classes at the MN Landscape Arboretum.
 *Ken Goff is best known for his Upper Midwest regional cuisine style of
cooking. He was chef at The Dakota Bar & Grill for many years, currently
chef/instructor at the LeCordon Bleu culinary school in Minneapolis. His
talents have been recognized in publications such as: Gourmet, Cook's and
The New York Times. Ken is actively involved in the local foods movement
through Slow Food Minnesota and other non profit agencies.
 *Lucia Watson has owned and operated her very popular and successful,
Lucia?s in the Uptown area of Minneapolis for nearly 25 years. She is a
pioneer in supporting small local farmers.

Cooking schedule:
10:00 - noon: Jenny Breen
Noon - 2:00: Ken Goff
2:00 - 4:00: Lucia Watson

Farm in the Market is owned by farmers Alan and Lori Callister of West
Concord, MN. and their partner George Seebach of Minneapolis. The store
sells over 700 locally grown products from over 70 farms. We are located in
the Midtown Global Market at 920 E. Lake St. Minneapolis, MN.

Wayne Martin Coordinator Alternative Livestock Systems Program Minnesota
Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) University of Minnesota 385
AnSc/VetMed Bldg, 1988 Fitch Ave St Paul, MN 55108 (O)612-625-6224 Fax

--------4 of 17--------

From: Jennifer Nguyen <jnguyen [at]>
Subject: MPIRG issues 4.19 10am

Come and let your voice be heard at the Issues & Actions event brought to
you by MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group).

Issues & Actions
Mississippi Room (3rd floor) in Coffman Memorial Union,
(Minneapolis) University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Saturday April 19, 2008 from 10:00am to 3:00pm

MPIRG is choosing our new campaigns and strategies for the next year and
we would like you to be a part of it.  There will be a presentation of the
proposals, Q&A, discussion and voting.  Proposals range from environmental
consciousness, affordable housing, human rights, etc.  We'd love to hear
what you have to say.

MPIRG is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization established in 1971 at the
University of Minnesota.  We have been working on environmental and social
justice issues.  Our mission is to empower youth and to make substantial
changes towards erasing social injustices.

--------5 of 17--------

From: Leslie Reindl <alteravista [at]>
Subject: End of empire/f 4.19 10:30am

written and directed by Tim Bennett

FREE Saturday, April 19, 10:30am-1:30pm. Merriam Park Library, downstairs.
Corner of Fairview and Marshall in St. Paul.  Easy to get to by bus.
Street parking.

Come one, come all.  'elicit the choir to gather others. - As someone
said, the "Choir" is getting bigger. Here is an opportunity for people to
see a DVD that gives information about real dire possibility in the near
future - grim as it may seem, or as filled with possibility as it may
seem. It is time to look.  To wake up to the plight of Earth and her
inhabitants.  It is time to stop pretending that the Earth has infinite
capacity to withstand the ignorance of the human species.  Persuade
someone, who is teetering on the edge of waking up, TO WAKE UP!  Send this
announcement to people whom you think might benefit from its message.

Bring your own refreshments; we will have some sustenance there, like
chocolate, cookies, tea.
Presented by Wilderness Connections, Inc.

--------6 of 17--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P Mkta 4.19 11am

NWN4P-Minnetonka demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, at Hwy. 7
and 101.  Park in the Target Greatland lot; meet near the fountain. We
will walk along the public sidewalk. Signs available.

-------7 of 17---------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Free plants 4.19 11am

Youth Farm Perennial Give Away!
*Asters          *Yarrow        *Echanatia
Many more perennials to be identified!
Saturday April 19th, 11-3pm
Baha'i Center, the middle of the block between 36th street and 37th street
on Chicago Avenue.

Come dig out a few perennials for your garden. Bring a shovel (some will
be provided) and a way to transport your new plants (garbage bag, planting
pot, bucket). Feel free to hang around and help us dig up our beds or chat
about the lovely spring.

--------8 of 17--------

From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at]>
Subject: Homeless out? 4.19 12noon

Saturday, April 19
12:00 noon
Walker Church
3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis

Minneapolis is seeking a quick way to push homeless people out of the area
of the new stadium and they're using the License Division to do the
hatchet job.  A hearing is scheduled on April 25th on renewal of permits
for facilities that serve homeless in the area.

The city claims there are problems with "security" but what we've seen
from over a year of concentrated copwatch in that area is that police
routinely rough up, search and arrest people on false charges.  If there's
any kind of a security issue, it's that homeless and poor people are not
secure from police brutality!

Join CUAPB and others at an emergency meeting to develop plans to stop the
routing of homeless out of the new stadium area.

We understand that people have issues with some of the shelter providers
and how some have made their money off the backs of the homeless.  This is
not an effort to support particular providers.  It is an effort to demand
that space currently being used to serve the needs of homeless people not
be taken over as "prime real estate" for bars, parking and other "stadium

Let's make it clear to the city:  THE PROBLEM IS HOMELESSNESS, NOT THE

By STEVE BRANDT, Star Tribune
April 11, 2008

Saying God is on her side, Sharing and Caring Hands founder Mary Jo
Copeland said Thursday that Minneapolis officials are trying to drive the
homeless people she serves away from the Twins ballpark rising nearby.

But city licensing officials say they've held up the license Copeland
needs to serve meals because she has resisted their entreaties to put in
place a security plan to reduce drug dealing and other problems.

Copeland runs a family housing shelter and drop-in meals and other
programs virtually across N. 7th Street from the new ballpark. The
facility's license is one of thousands up for renewal by the city; an
April 25 meeting is scheduled.

She launched a pre-emptive strike with a Bible-quoting news conference
Thursday to denounce the city. She said she's willing to abide by
reasonable requirements.

"I don't go into people's meetings if I know they're going to harass me,"
she said, before ending the conference with the "Hail Mary."

The city takes the issue seriously enough that Mayor R.T. Rybak met with
Copeland a year ago, but did not resolve the issue.

"They were having trouble getting through to her," said Rybak spokesman
Jeremy Hanson. "She once told him that when he's going against her, he's
going against God."

"They came in almost like Gestapo," said Dick Copeland, Mary Jo's husband.

"The truth is they don't want us here."

The need for land near transportation and people has drawn both sports and
homeless facilities to the fringes of downtown. People Serving People's
family shelter sits two blocks from the Metrodome, and a cluster of
shelters and more permanent housing for the homeless sit as close as a
block from the Target Center. In St. Paul, Catholic Charities operates
Dorothy Day Center for homeless people across from Xcel Center.

None of the others reported problems with the city. "Absolutely not," said
Rebecca Lentz, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, which runs a 250-mat
shelter a block from Target Center on Currie Avenue.

"We have a good working relationship with Target Center and the
Timberwolves," said Bill Miller, who runs Salvation Army's Harbor Light,
which offers programs for homeless people, also on Currie.

At People Serving People, two blocks from the Metrodome, the Twins donate
tickets for an annual fundraiser, and for kids to attend games.

But there are "serious security issues" at Sharing and Caring Hands,
reported Ricardo Cervantes, the city's deputy director for licenses and
consumer services.

"Sharing and Caring hands has been on my radar since I walked in the
door," said Cervantes, who has held his post for three years. Problems
include illicit drugs, disorderly conduct, loitering and public nuisance
infractions, he said.

Police made 17 arrests at Sharing and Caring Hands for drug offenses in
2006 after making undercover buys of marijuana and crack cocaine.
Cervantes told of watching one young man go in and out of the center, then
roll a marijuana joint; when questioned by an accompanying officer, he
pulled out an ID and sex offender papers.

The city is holding people accountable for their behavior, said Don
Samuels, the area's council member. "Should a place that serves the poor
and homeless be guaranteed an exemption?" he asked.  "I don't think we
should do that because these strategies were designed to keep people safe,
and who should be kept more safe than the vulnerable?"

Dick Copeland showed off the 17 cameras at Sharing and Caring Hands that
are monitored by one of three security workers. He said the facility has a
security plan; it's just not written. The family shelter has a controlled

He said the city didn't give the Copelands much help after his wife began
operations nearby in 1985. He said that city pressure stepped up in spring
2007, just before ballpark construction began. "All of the sudden the
city's concerned we're not doing this right," Copeland said.

But Cervantes said that the city took action only after years of having
Copeland ignore requests.

The Copelands don't blame the Twins. The team has donated posters and also
clothing collected from players and their families as they pack up after
the season, according to Kevin Smith, the Twins' executive director of
public affairs.

"Mary's Place and Sharing and Caring Hands are as much a part of Twins
Territory as any place," he said, using a team marketing term.

The team also has talked to Salvation Army representatives about employing
some of its residents in concession and other ballpark jobs, said team
official Bryan Donaldson, who serves on the advisory board for Harbor
Light. "We know the neighborhood we're moving into," he said.

Copeland said her facility is the safest place in the city and said she's
praying for a change of heart by city officials. But she claimed a trump
card: "The power of almighty God runs this city."

Steve Brandt  612-673-4438

[And odds are there is some big buck biz that wants that spot cleared out
so they can build. Odds are too that that biz is *real* friendly with
important Mpls officials. If in doubt, bet on corruption from top to
bottom. It's how the rich get and stay rich. -ed]

--------9 of 17--------

From: Human Rights Center Development Desk <hrcfund [at]>
Subject: Env action 4.19 1pm

April 19, 2008 - Chalchiutlicue: Environmental Action Training.  Time:
1:00 - 3:00 p.m..  Cost: Free.

Adults, youth, parents and grandparents, come and spend some time learning
and doing fun activities that improve our environment.  Make your own
cleaning products to take home, increase your recycling know how, reduce
your weekly garbage drop.  Learn how to talk to friends and neighbors
about what we can do protect our environment.  The Chalchiutlicue
Environmental Action Training will build skills to share knowledge about
what is happening in our earth, water and air, and what we can do to
restore the balance.

To register or for more information please call: (612) 370 - 4960

This new program is offered in collaboration with Ce Tempoxcalli,
Powderhorn Park and, a Community Power Grant from Solid
Waste Management Coordination Board with additional support from the
Headwaters Foundation.  The program is free and open to adults, youth and
adult-accompanied children.

Location: Powderhorn Park Recreation Center, Minneapolis, MN

--------10 of 17--------

From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 4.19 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday

--------11 of 17--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Energy problem 4.19 2pm

Forum - The Energy Problem: Choices for an Uncertain Future
April 19, 2008, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
East Lake Public Library, 2727 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, Minnesota

Contact: Melinda Ludwiczak, Phone: 612-630-6246, E-mail:
mludwiczak [at]

This will be a citizen-based discussion that seeks to come to an agreement
on how to address the energy problem.  Join skilled facilitators for a
deliberative discussion based on the National Issues Forums model that
invites people to consider the following approaches: Approach #1: Reduce
our dependence on foreign energy and make all possible use of domestic
energy sources, Approach #2: Get out of the fossil-fuel predicament and
get serious about developing alternative energy sources such as wind farms
and solar power, and Approach #3: Curb our appetite and reduce our demand
for energy.  Participants need only an interest in the topic and a
commitment to discussing possible solutions.  Pick up an eight-page
printed discussion guide at East Lake Library or click here to access and
print out the discussion guide.

--------12 of 17--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Palestine 4.19 5pm

Saturday, 4/19, 5 to 8 pm, Palestine Day at Columbia Heights High School,
with art/food/refreshments, 1440 - 49th Ave NE, Columbia Heights.  $5 or
$25 per family.  info [at] or 612-986-9982.

--------13 of 17--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Peace site 4.19 6pm

Saturday, 4/19, 6 pm, Peace Site dedication and concert, Basilica of St
Mary, between 16th and 17th Streets on Hennepin Ave, Mpls.

--------14 of 17--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Cuba/Mexico/CTV 4.19 9pm

Sat, 4/19, 9pm and Tues, 4/22, 8am "Thinking Outside the Borders"
Interview of Patrick Leet, an American activist who shares insights from
his recent years living in Cuba and Mexico.  Hosted by Karen Redleaf.

--------15 of 17--------

[Here, unadorned, is how the ruling class *really* operates. It's where
most of the world's misery poverty war etc come from, have always come
from, and will always come from until we the people boot them out and
institute democracy equality socialism. The rich as a class suck; but they
pay lots of good money to put lipstick on their snouts and rare-skin shoes
on their cloven feet, so they don't *look* like swine. -ed]

Philip Morris International Commences New Plans to Spread Death andDisease
by Robert Weissman / April 15th, 2008

Philip Morris International today starts business as an independent
company, no longer affiliated with Philip Morris USA or the parent
company, Altria. Philip Morris USA will sell Marlboro and other cigarettes
in the United States. Philip Morris International will trample over the
rest of the world.

Public health advocates have worried and speculated over the past year
about what this move may mean, but Philip Morris International has now
removed all doubts.

The world is about to meet a Philip Morris International that will be even
more predatory in pushing its toxic products worldwide.

The new Philip Morris International will be unconstrained by public
opinion in the United States . the home country and largest market of the
old, unified Philip Morris . and will no longer fear lawsuits in the
United States.

As a result, Thomas Russo of the investment fund Gardner Russo & Gardner
tells Bloomberg, the company .won.t have to worry about getting
pre-approval from the U.S. for things that are perfectly acceptable in
foreign markets.. Russo.s firm owns 5.7 million shares of Altria and now
Philip Morris International.

A commentator for The Motley Fool investment advice service writes, .the
Marlboro Man is finally free to roam the globe unfettered by the legal and
marketing shackles of the U.S. domestic market..

In February, the World Health Organization issued a new report on the
global tobacco epidemic. WHO estimates the Big Tobacco-fueled epidemic now
kills more than 5 million people every year.

Five million people.

By 2030, WHO estimates 8 million will die a year from tobacco-related
disease, 80 percent in the developing world.

The WHO report emphasizes that known and proven public health policies can
dramatically reduce smoking rates. These policies include indoor
smoke-free policies; bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and
sponsorship; heightened taxes; effective warnings; and cessation programs.
These .strategies are within the reach of every country, rich or poor and,
when combined as a package, offer us the best chance of reversing this
growing epidemic,. says WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

Most countries have failed to adopt these policies, thanks in no small
part to decades-long efforts by Philip Morris and the rest of Big Tobacco
to deploy political power to block public health initiatives. Thanks to
the momentum surrounding a global tobacco treaty, known as the Framework
Convention on Tobacco Control, adopted in 2005, this is starting to
change. There.s a long way to go, but countries are increasingly adopting
sound public health measures to combat Big Tobacco.

Now Philip Morris International has signaled its initial plans to subvert
these policies.

The company has announced plans to inflict on the world an array of new
products, packages and marketing efforts. These are designed to undermine
smoke-free workplace rules, defeat tobacco taxes, segment markets with
specially flavored products, offer flavored cigarettes sure to appeal to
youth, and overcome marketing restrictions.

The Chief Operating Officer of Philip Morris International, Andre
Calantzopoulos, detailed in a March investor presentation two new
products, Marlboro Wides, .a shorter cigarette with a wider diameter,.and
Marlboro Intense, .a rich, flavorful, shorter cigarette..

Sounds innocent enough, as far as these things go.

That.s only to the innocent mind.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Philip Morris International.s
underlying objective: .The idea behind Intense is to appeal to customers
who, due to indoor smoking bans, want to dash outside for a quick nicotine
hit but don.t always finish a full-size cigarette..

Workplace and indoor smoke-free rules protect people from second-hand
smoke, but also make it harder for smokers to smoke. The inconvenience
(and stigma of needing to leave the office or restaurant to smoke) helps
smokers smoke less and, often, quit. Subverting smoke-free bans will
damage an important tool to reduce smoking.

Philip Morris International says it can adapt to high taxes. If applied
per pack (or per cigarette), rather than as a percentage of price, high
taxes more severely impact low-priced brands (and can help shift smokers
to premium brands like Marlboro). But taxes based on price hurt Philip
Morris International.

Philip Morris International.s response? .Other Tobacco Products,. which
Calantzopoulos describes as .tax-driven substitutes for low-price
cigarettes.. These include, says Calantzopoulos, .the .tobacco
block,.which I would describe as the perfect make-your-own cigarette
device.. In Germany, roll-your-own cigarettes are taxed far less than
manufactured cigarettes, and Philip Morris International.s .tobacco block.
is rapidly gaining market share.

One of the great industry deceptions over the last several decades is
selling cigarettes called .lights. (as in Marlboro Lights), .low.or .mild.
. all designed to deceive smokers into thinking they are safer.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control says these inherently
misleading terms should be barred. Like other companies in this regard,
Philip Morris has been moving to replace the names with color coding .
aiming to convey the same ideas, without the now-controversial terms.

Calantzopoulos says Philip Morris International will work to more clearly
differentiate Marlboro Gold (lights) from Marlboro Red (traditional) to
.increase their appeal to consumer groups and segments that Marlboro has
not traditionally addressed..

Another, related initiative is Marlboro Filter Plus, which claims to
reduce tar levels. First launched in Korea, in 2006, Calantzopoulos says
it has recorded .an impressive 22 percent share. among what the company
designates as .Young Adult Smokers..

Philip Morris International also is unrolling a range of new Marlboro
products with obvious attraction for youth. These include Marlboro Ice
Mint, Marlboro Crisp Mint and Marlboro Fresh Mint, introduced into Japan
and Hong Kong last year. It is exporting clove products from Indonesia.

Responding to increasing advertising restrictions and large, pictorial
warnings required on packs, Marlboro is focusing increased attention on
packaging. Fancy slide packs make the package more of a marketing device
than ever before, and may be able to obscure warning labels.

Most worrisome of all may be the company.s forays into China, the biggest
cigarette market in the world, which has largely been closed to foreign
multinationals. Philip Morris International has hooked up with the China
National Tobacco Company, which controls sales in China. Philip Morris
International will sell Chinese brands in Europe. Much more importantly,
licensed versions of Marlboro are expected to be available in China
starting this summer. The Chinese aren.t letting Philip Morris
International in quickly . Calantzopoulos says .we do not foresee a
material impact on our volume and profitability in the near future.. But,
he adds, .we believe this long-term strategic cooperation will prove to be
mutually beneficial and form the foundation for strong long-term growth..

What does long-term growth mean? In part, it means gaining market share
among China.s 350 million smokers. But it also means expanding the market,
by selling to girls and women. About 60 percent of men in China smoke;
only 2 or 3 percent of women do so.

The global vilification of Big Tobacco over the last decade and a half is
one of the world.s great public health stories. Directly connected to that
vilification has been a reduction in smoking, and adoption of life-saving
policies that will avert millions of deaths.

Yet here comes Philip Morris International, now the world.s largest
nongovernmental tobacco company. It is permitted to break off from Altria
with no regulatory restraint. It proceeds to announce plans to subvert the
public health policies that offer the best hope for reducing the toll of
tobacco-related death and disease. The markets applaud, governments are

What an extraordinary commentary on the political and ideological potency
of the multinational corporation . and the idea that corporations should
presumptively be free to do what they want, with only the most minimal of

Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational
Monitor, and director of Essential Action. Copyright  2007 Robert Weissman
Read other articles by Robert, or visit Robert's website.

This article was posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2008 at 4:59 am and is
filed under Consumer Advocacy, Drug Wars, Health/Medical. Send to a

--------16 of 17--------

Losing Latin America ... All the Way to Tierra del Fuego  [huzzah!]
The Bush Legacy
Apri1 18, 2008
Mexico City.

For George Bush, the March 1 anti-terror strike by the Colombian air force
under U.S. guidance on a FARC guerrilla camp deep in the Ecuadorian jungle
had everything to do with legacy.

During eight years in the White House, Bush's war on Iraq so absorbed his
attention that for once in three centuries of Yanqui hegemony, Latin
America has breathing room to shore up common defenses against the
Colossus of the North, build alliances, as the pendulum swings left from
neoliberalism, and even elect some social democratic presidents.

"We're back!" U.S. Undersecretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Tom
Shannon greeted the crowd at the Council of the Americas in New York on
April 2, signaling renewed Bush government interest in the Western
Hemisphere. Not that the U.S. had ever really been away: "Our influence is
not diminishing - it's just changing," the undersecretary argued before
his well-heeled audience, most with serious fiduciary interests south of
the border. Shannon conceded that the administration's temporary
inattention had created a vacuum that "offered an enormous opportunity to
articulate one vision" - a long-winded euphemism for the hated Hugo
Chavez. But now Chavez's space was "shrinking," and with Colombia (the key
U.S. proxy on the continent), Brazil (neutered by Lula's ambition), Peru,
Chile and Mexico back on board, "together we can overcome our recent

What seemed most significant on Shannon's shopping list of new and old
accomplices were the absences: Argentina, for example, the third largest
economy in Latin America and an important player in the southern
continent's tilt to the left, where Peronist Social Democrat Cristina
Fernndez de Kirchner succeeds her Social Democrat husband Nestor. The
Kirchners have been in the Bush doghouse since they helped torpedo his
neoliberal pipedream ALCA (Free Trade Treaty of the Americas) at a 2005
Summit of the Americas in Mar de Plata.

To complicate Cristina Kirchner's investiture, U.S. authorities in Miami
and Washington charged that the dreaded Chavez had financed her campaign.
The scenario was a twisted one. On the eve of Cristina's inauguration last
November, Argentinean customs agents in Buenos Aires confiscated $800,000
from a Venezuelan "businessman" living in Florida, Guido Antonini Wilson.
The ultimate destination of the money was obscure.

Although the investigation into the origins of the boodle was strictly
within Argentinean jurisdiction, FBI agents in Miami promptly arrested
four Venezuelans suspected to have been involved in the affair for failure
to register as Chavez's agents. Wilson himself was not indicted, having
worn an FBI wire in order to implicate the others. Despite the lack of
credible evidence, the story that Washington is broadcasting to the
continent is that Hugo Chavez, the Saddam of South America, bought the
Argentine presidency for Cristina Kirchner.

"We're back!" Tom Shannon declared, and Cristina Kirchner's first 100 days
were troubled by mischief that had a distinctly made-in-U.S.A. whiff. As
the 32nd anniversary of the installation of the military junta - that set
off years of dirty war in which as many as 30,000 Argentinean leftists
disappeared - approached, agribusiness tycoons, miffed at a 9 per cent tax
Kirchner had slapped on soaring soy exports, hired armies of goons to
block the nation's highways and shut down commercial traffic in and out of
Argentina. The shelves of Buenos Aires supermarkets quickly went bare.

Thirty two years ago, according to an account by the Argentinean
journalist Stella Callone, one of the organizers of the lockout, Sociedad
Rural (Rural Society), financed the military junta that seized power on
March 23, 1976. The road blockades brought back bad dreams. The 1976 coup
had been preceded by a similar lockout.

"Pintas" (wall slogans) were slapped on the walls of Buenos Aires:
"Volvere Videla!". General Videla headed the junta. On March 23-24, 2008
the anniversary of the junta's coup, thousands of upscale housewives
gathered in the Plaza de Mayo in front of the Casa Rosada, the Argentine
White House, and staged a "cacerolazo" - beating on pots and pans in
support of the striking tycoons.

The cacerolazos brought back memories of middle class housewives'
marches in Santiago that led up to the 1973 assassination of Chilean
socialist President Salvador Allende, a U.S.-overseen enterprise. More
recently, in Bolivia and Venezuela, the CIA's apptoach has been to
encourage such mobilizations of the "gente decente" (the "decent people")
against the socialist regimes of Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez.

Curiously, as the cacerolazos clattered in the plazas of Buenos Aires,
leaders of the Latin American right were gathered in Rosario Argentina at
an "Encounter of Young Leaders," hosted by former right-wing Spanish
Premier Jose Mara Aznar. Among his guests were Bolivian ex-president Jorge
"Tuto" Quiroga; the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, now a Spanish
citizen; and Roger Noriega who once occupied Shannon's post and was the
late Jesse Helm's hatchet man in Latin America.

Tuto's stay in Rosario struck a familiar chord. Well-to-do
agroindustrialists in Bolivia's four breakaway eastern provinces, known
collectively as the Media Luna (half moon), had been blocking roads and
borders for days to protest President Evo Morales' edict banning exports
of cooking oil until domestic demand was met. The secessionist provinces -
Santa Cruz, Tariya, Beni, and Pando - hold much of Bolivia's natural gas
wealth, the second largest such deposits in Latin America, and wield clout
in Washington. Demanding autonomy from the central government, provincial
leaders who represent the oligarchy and are universally white in a
majority Indian nation, reject Morales' new constitution and have put
Bolivia on a civil war footing. One item gaining traction in the Latin
press has the bloodthirsty Colombian paramilitary AUC (Autonomous Units of
Colombia) training secessionist troops for eventual hostilities. Both the
Catholic Church and Bolivia's immediate neighbors seek a negotiated
settlement, but the secessionists have refused talks.

Across the Chaco to the east, U.S. Special Forces are garrisoned at
Mariscal Estagarribia, [Paraguay, strategically positioned to keep an eye
on the purportedly terrorist-ridden Triple Frontier (Argentina, Brazil,
and Paraguay) at Iguazu Falls, the largest fresh water reserve on the
continent, and the breakaway Bolivian provinces.

Much to Shannon and President Bush's consternation, Paraguay, with the
deepest income divide in the southern hemisphere, may well become Latin
America's latest left domino in upcoming April 20 presidential elections,
as former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo is favored to upset the Colorado
Party, the longest ruling dynasty (61 years) in the Americas.

On a Mexican swing last fall, Lugo insisted that if elected, he would shut
down the U.S. military operation in Paraguay much as Ecuador's Rafael
Correa has vowed to do with the U.S. drug war installation at Manta. The
of losing bases on the Latin mainland naturally causes alarm in
Washington, D.C. In a desperate maneuver to keep Lugo from the presidency,
the U.S. Embassy generated alarm by charging that the Colombian FARC is
operating in San Pedro, the ex-Bishop's ex-diocese.

Although Lugo has advertised his support for Hillary Clinton and
Venezuela's Chavez hopes that relations with the White House will improve
once the present occupant has departed, a change in mindset at the Casa
Blanca seems unlikely. Bush's potential successors have had little to say
about the future of bilateral relations with the countries of the south.
All three denounce Chavez. Republican John McCain calls him a "thug" and
has promised to topple the Venezuelan strongman if elected.

The White House's aggressiveness in pushing for a free-trade agreement
with Colombia is payback for years of loyal service as Washington's most
assiduous proxy in the region. As did Bill Clinton (still lobbying hard
for it), the present commander-in-chief regards the trade agreement as a
crucial matter of national security and tries to frame the debate for
passage in Cold War terms: the Free Market vs. Chavez's 21st Century
Socialism. Democrats who won't support the FTA are redbaited as Chavistas
and supporters of narco-terrorists. But, despite the risks, many Dems are
reluctant to give in on Free Trade. Big Labor has conditioned its support
for the candidates on a continuing "No" vote.

Just how deeply the FTA issue has contaminated Clinton's campaign was
embarrassingly spotlighted by the resignation of Mark Penn as Hillary's
chief advisor. The departure of Penn, chief of the powerful PR lobbyshop
Burson-Marsteller, who had signed on with Colombia to lobby the Free Trade
Agreement through congress despite his boss's outspoken opposition (at
least in rust bowl states like Ohio and Pennsylvania) has Clinton's
campaign in a tizzy.

Failure to move the FTA through the U.S. Congress will put one more tear
in George Bush's tattered Latin legacy. Bush desperately needs passage to
validate not only his doctrine in Latin America but James Monroe's as

But George Bush's real legacy continues to exhort the Latin masses from
the balconies of Miraflores Palace in downtown Caracas. Despite eight
years of foiled plots to remove Chavez from office, to fund the opposition
and foment coups, and even kidnap the comandante, he remains at the helm
of state, and Shannon's "shrinking space" seems delusionary. Painted by
the Bushites as a totalitarian, when ambushed by a "No" vote on a
cherished referendum that would have extended his stay in power, Chavez
chose to accept the "No" to underscore his democratic credentials.

Chavez's people are wary. "This is Bush's most dangerous moment," worries
Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra. Prospects for a Bay of
Pigs or Panama Deception-like invasion are still on the White House
drawing board, although all sides know that such a desperate aggression
would spell suicide - Venezuela provides Bush with 1.5 million barrels of
black gold daily and is Washington's fourth largest supplier. Indeed,
without Chavez's oil, Bush's war in Iraq would be grounded.

In times of stress, President Chavez has often threatened a cutoff of U.S.
shipments, his ultimate weapon. Meanwhile, threats of a new aggression by
Washington may well be met by Venezuela with a demand for payment in euros
and not worthless US dollars. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez remains politically
incorrect - at least in Washington's vision - financing elections of left
candidates up and down the continent, underwriting Mercosur, and
re-nationalizing industries that were once privatized, with zeal. Two
Mexican billionaires have been recently buffeted - Lorenzo Zembrano, whose
CEMEX cement conglomerate the comandante nationalized in preparation for a
major housing program, and Carlos Slim, Forbes magazine's richest
[although, he is not magazine's richest man, but he is richest man
according to this magazine] man on earth, who last year lost the recently
purchased CANTV phone company to Chavez.

Arriving for a state visit in Mexico on April 11, the sixth anniversary of
the failed U.S. coup against his ally Chavez, Ecuadorian President Rafael
Correa cautioned Washington: "I hope they understand that Latin America
has changed and that change is irreversible."

John Ross is in Mexico City and can be reached at johnross [at]

--------17 of 17--------

Venezuela: Democracy, Socialism and Imperialism   pt1
by James Petras / April 18th, 2008
Dissident Voice

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez remains the world's leading secular,
democratically elected political leader who has consistently and publicly
opposed imperialist wars in the Middle East, attacked extra-territorial
intervention and US and European Union complicity in kidnapping and
torture. Venezuela plays the major role in sharply reducing the price of
oil for the poorest countries in the Caribbean region and Central America,
thus substantially aiding them in their balance of payments, without
attaching any "strings" to this vital assistance. Venezuela has been in
the forefront in supporting free elections and opposing human right abuses
in the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia by pro-US client regimes
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia. No other country in the Americas has
done more to break down the racial barriers to social mobility and the
acquisition of land for Afro-Latin and Indio Americans. President Chavez
has been on the cutting edge of efforts toward greater Latin American
integration - despite opposition from the United States and several
regional regimes, who have opted for bilateral free trade agreements with
the US.

Even more significant, President Chavez is the only elected president to
reverse a US backed military coup (in 48 hours), defeat a (US-backed)
bosses. lockout, and return the economy to double-digit growth over the
subsequent 4 years.1 President Chavez is the only elected leader in the
history of Latin America to successfully win eleven straight electoral
contests against US-financed political parties and almost the entire
private mass media over a nine-year period. Finally, President Chavez is
the only leader in the last half-century who came within 1% of having a
popular referendum for a "socialist transformation" approved, a
particularly surprising result in a country in which less than 30% of the
work force is made up of peasants and factory workers.

President Chavez has drastically reduced long-term poverty faster than any
regime in the region,2 demonstrating that a nationalist-welfare regime is
much more effective in ending endemic social ills than its neo-liberal
counterparts. A rigorous, empirical study of the socio-economic
performance of the Chavez government demonstrates its success in a whole
series of indicators after the defeat of the counter-revolutionary coup
and lockout and after the nationalization of petroleum (2003).

GDP has grown by more than 87% with only a small part of the growth being
in oil. The poverty rate has been cut in half (from 54% in 2003 at the
height of the bosses. lockout to 27% in 2007; and extreme poverty has been
reduced from 43% in 1996 to 9% in 2007), and unemployment by more than
half (from 17% in 1998 to 7% in 2007). The economy has created jobs at a
rate nearly three times that of the United States during its most recent
economic expansion. Accessible health care for the poor has been
successfully expanded with the number of primary care physicians in the
public sector increasing from 1,628 in 1998 to 19,571 by early 2007. About
40% of the population now has access to subsidized food. Access to
education, especially higher education, has also been greatly expanded for
poor families. Real (inflation adjusted) social spending per person has
increased by more than 300%.3

His policies have once and for all refuted the notion that the competitive
demands of "globalization" (deep and extensive insertion in the world
market) are incompatible with large-scale social welfare policies. Chavez
has demonstrated that links to the world market are compatible with the
construction of a more developed welfare state under a popularly-based

The large-scale, long-term practical accomplishments of the Chavez
government, however have been overlooked by liberal and social democratic
academics in Venezuela and their colleagues in the US and Europe, who
prefer to criticize secondary institutional and policy weaknesses, failing
to take into account the world-historic significance of the changes taking
place in the context of a hostile, aggressively militarist-driven empire.4

No reasonable and rigorous contemporary analysis can seriously provide an
accurate assessment of Venezuela while glossing over the tremendous
accomplishments achieved during the Hugo Chavez presidency.

It is within the framework of Chavez' innovative and courageous
political-social breakthroughs that we should proceed to an analysis of
the advances, contradictions and negative aspects of specific political,
economic, social and cultural policies, practices and institutions.

          The Advances and Limitations of Economic Policy

Venezuela has made tremendous advances in the economy since the failed
coup of April 11, 2002 and the employers' lockout of December
2002-February 2003, which led to a 24% decline in the GDP.5 Under
President Chavez' leadership and with favorable terms of trade, Venezuela
grew by over 10% during the past 5 years, decreasing poverty levels from
over 50% to less than 28%, surpassing any country in the world in terms of
the rate of poverty-reduction. The economy has, in contrast to the past,
accumulated over $35 billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves despite
a vast increase in social spending and has totally freed itself of
dependence on the onerous terms imposed by the self-styled "international
banks" (IMF, World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank) by paying off
its debt.6

The government has nationalized strategic enterprises in the oil and gas
industries, steel, cement, food production and distribution,
telecommunications and electricity industries. It has passed new excess
profits taxes, doubling its revenues. It has signed new petroleum and gas
joint ventures with over a dozen European, Asian and Latin American
multinationals giving the Venezuelan state majority control. It has
expropriated several million acres of uncultivated farm land from
speculators and absentee owners and, more recently, an additional 32
under-producing plantations.7 The importance of these structural changes
cannot be understated. In the first place they increased the capacity of
the Chavez government to make or influence strategic decisions regarding
investment, re-investment, pricing and marketing. The increase in state
ownership increases the flow of revenues and profits into the federal
treasury, enhancing financing of productive investments, social programs
and downstream processing plants and services. The government is slowly
diversifying its petroleum markets from a hostile adversary (the USA) to
trade and investment with countries like China, Brazil, Iran and Russia,
thus reducing Venezuela's vulnerability to arbitrary economic boycotts.

The government has started a large-scale, long-term project to diversify
the economy, and especially to become food self-sufficient in staples like
milk, meat, vegetables and poultry.8 Equally important investments in
processing raw petroleum into value-added products like fertilizers and
plastics are now operative, albeit at a slow pace. New refineries are on
schedule to substitute dependence on US-based operations and to add value
to their exports. New public transport systems are advancing as is visible
in the new metro being built in Caracas, which will lessen the traffic
jams and air pollution. Over 2.5 billion Strong Bolivars, the new
Venezuelan currency (over $1 billion dollars) has been allocated in the
form of incentives, credit and subsidies to promote the increase in
agricultural production and processing.9 Investments in new lines of
production linked to social programs are underway, including new
enterprises manufacturing 15,000 prefabricated houses per year.10

Venezuela, like the rest of the world (China, EU, USA, Australia and so
on) is deeply affected by inflation, especially of imported food.
Inflation has escalated over the last 3 years rising from 14% in 2005, to
17% in 2006 and 22% in 2007, threatening to undermine the gains in living
standards made over the last 5 years.6 Government attempts to impose price
controls has had limited effect, as big food producers have cut back on
production, food distributors have decreased shipments and even hoarded
essential goods and retail sellers have traded on the black market. On the
surface, the problem is that consumer power has increased faster than
productivity, increasing demand relative to supply. However, the deeper
structural reason is the decline in capitalist investment in production
and distribution - despite high profits. Many capitalist food producers
and food processors have diverted their profits into investments in
speculative activity, including imports of luxury goods and real estate
where there is a higher rate of return. Some have lessened investment
because of opposition to the government, others because of fears of
agrarian reform, while all complain about "price controls" leading to a
"profit squeeze". These complaints do not account for low productivity,
which existed before price controls and continued even after the
government lifted the controls. Inflation and the resultant negative
impact is one of the principle reasons for popular abstention during the
December 2007 referendum and is the cause of popular discontent today in
Venezuela. Both the far right and the ultra-left (especially in some
neighborhoods and trade unions) have been exploiting this discontent.

Inflation is one of the principle reasons for the decline of the
popularity of various regimes (Left, Center and Right) throughout history
in Europe, as well as in Latin America.11 In large part this is because
the great majority of workers in Venezuela are self-employed and have no
organization or wage and income indexes to keep up with the rise in
prices. In Venezuela, even the major industries, like petroleum, steel and
aluminum, have "sub-contracted" most of their workers who lack any power
to negotiate for wage increases tied to inflation. Government subsidies
and promotional incentives to industrial and agricultural capitalists to
promote productivity has led to increased profits - without commensurate
increases in wage income. During the period from February to April 2008,
the state intervened directly in the productive process, through the
takeover of unproductive companies and farms. New worker and peasant
demands include "opening the books" of the profitable firms and farms in
pursuit of wage and collective bargaining negotiations, re-opening closed
firms and investments in new public enterprises. Chavez recognized that
the problem of production (supply) will continue to lead to too many
Bolivars chasing too few consumer goods - inflation, discontent and
political vulnerability - unless he accelerates the nationalization
process and deepens public ownership.

To effectively intervene and take control of strategic economic sectors,
the government requires working class organizations, cadres and leaders
able to co-manage the enterprises, "opening the books" on investments,
profits and wages and establish work discipline. Under present
capital-labor relations, capitalists totally neglect investment in
technology and innovations, employ temporary or contingent workers under
precarious conditions and depend on the Venezuelan state to enforce harsh
labor codes.

In advancing the Bolivarian road to Socialism, President Chavez has to
deal with incompetent and reactionary officials in his own government. For
example, prior to Chavez. nationalization of the major steel multinational
SIDOR, the Minister of Labor, an incompetent and inexperienced functionary
with no prior relation to labor, sided with the company and approved of
the Governor of the state of Bolivar in calling out the National Guard to
break the strike. Throughout 2007-2008, management of SIDOR refused to
negotiate in good faith with the unions, which provoked strikes in January
in February and March 2008. The intransigence of the steel bosses
increased the militancy of the workers and led to Chavez' intervention. In
defense of his order to nationalize, Chavez cited the positive role of the
steel workers in opposing the coup, the "slave-like" work conditions and
the export strategies, which denied the domestic construction industry the
steel it needed for high-priority homebuilding. He called on the
nationalized industry to be run under "workers councils" in a efficient
and productive manner.12

Government repression of strikes provoked regional union solidarity and
worker-led marches against the National Guard and calls for the
resignation of the ineffective Labor Minister. After Chavez nationalized
steel, trade unions from major industrial sectors met to coordinate
support for President Chavez and press for further moves toward public
ownership. Equally ominous, brutality and excess use of force ordered by
the general in charge of the National Guard is indicative of a profoundly
anti-working class, pro-big business bias of the Guard officers, a
potentially dangerous threat to the Chavez government in the future.13 By
confronting the problem of inflation and the overvalued, strong Venezuelan
Bolivar, Chavez is dealing with an issue that is real and deeply felt by
most workers. Failure by the government to deal with its structural roots
makes it vulnerable to demagogic appeals by the right and the sectarian
ultra-left and its principle beneficiary, the US imperialism.

New public investments in fertilizer plants, prefabricated housing,
positive measures reducing inflation by one third in the first 2 months of
2008 and policies sharply increasing food supply by 20% indicate that the
Chavez government is beginning to confront some of the economy's weak
points. In visits to several public and private retail markets during the
last part of February and early March, we did not find any shortages of
essential items, contrary to the opposition, and the US and European media
reports. An opposition organized protest of shortages of liquid gas in
Catia (a popular neighborhood in Caracas) was front-page news (with
blown-up photos) in the opposition daily, El Universal, but with no follow
up reports when the government sent in supplies the next day.14

By the beginning of 2008, public spending, which is not always efficiently
invested or entirely free of corruption, reduced unemployment 8.5%, the
lowest in decades.15 However a government goal of 5.5% seems over
optimistic, especially in light of the fall-out from the US recession and
decline in European demand.

The big challenge to Chavez' economic policy in 2008, a year of important
state and local elections in November, is to ensure that the inevitable
mid-year increase in public spending is directed toward productive
investments and not to populist short-term programs, which will ignite
another wave of inflation. We can expect that, as the elections approach,
the capitalist class will once again resort to "planned shortages",
distribution blockages, as well as other politically induced economic
problems in order to blame and discredit the government. Unless the
government reduces its reliance on the private sector for investments,
employment, production, finance and distribution, they will be forced into
taking costly and improvised measures to avoid electoral losses and
popular abstention. The indivisible ties between private business control
over strategic economic decisions and their paramount interest in pursuing
political measures designed to undermine the Chavez government, means that
the government will remain under constant threat unless it takes control
of the commanding heights of the economy. In recognition of those
structural factors, Chavez has announced plans to nationalize strategic
sectors. The Chavez government has become pro-active, anticipating shocks
from the economic elite and displacing them from power. Depending on the
private sector, will force the government to continue to be "reactive",
improvising responses to economic attacks during and after the fact and
suffering the negative political consequences.

=end part 1=


1. Weisbrot, Mark and Luis Sandoval 2008, .Update: The Venezuelan Economy
in the Chavez Years., Washington D.C. Center for Economic and Policy
Research. #

2. Mark Weisbrot, .An Empty Research Agenda: The Creation of Myths About
Venezuela:, March 2008. Center for Economic and Policy Research,
Washington D.C. #

3. Ibid. Also see .Letter From Venezuela.s Communication Minister to the
Washington Post., March 26, 2008 by Andres Izarra printed on March 28,
2008. #

4. A good example can be found in the Socialist Register 2008. For an
example of rampant propaganda disguised as .scholarship, see Francisco
Rodriguez, .An Empty Revolution: The Unfulfilled Promises of Hugo Chavez.,
Foreign Affairs March/April 2008. #

5. Weisbrot, Op cit. page 10. #

6. Weisbrot, Op cit. # # # #

7. Interview with peasant leaders of the Frente Nacional Campesino
Eqzquiel Zamora in Caracas, Feb. 27, 2008. Boston Globe, April 11, 2008. #

8. Interview with President Chavez, Caracas, March 2, 2008. #

9. Dario Vea, February 25, 2008 p.2. #

10. Interview with President Chavez, March 2, 2008. #

11. Hyperinflation brought down the social democratic Alfonsin regimes in
Argentina (1989) and Garcia in Peru (1990); weakened the Allende regime in
1973 and led to right wing take over. Hyperinflation has also led to the
collapse of right wing regimes in China (1945-49) and the rise of
Communism as well as regime change in Brazil in the 1990.s. #

12. Reuters News Service April 9, 2008; BBC News, April 2, 2008. #

13. .La grave represion de los trabajadores sidergicos. Argenpress, March
24, 2008. #

14. El Universal, March 5, 2008. page 1. #

15. Izarra, Op cit. #


This article was posted on Friday, April 18th, 2008 at 5:05 am and is
filed under Colombia, Culture, Democracy, Human Rights, Imperialism,
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